Five ways with cardboard: Upcycling your packaging leftovers

Of all the packaging materials out there, cardboard is probably the most versatile. It can be found in all kinds of places, serving all manner of purposes. Surprisingly, though, so many people still choose to toss it to the side once they've retrieved their package's contents.

Take a look at the upcycling tips below and you may start to think twice about throwing your cardboard straight in the recycling.

Gift tags

Let's start with a simple one. With the help of some scissors, a hole punch and a length of ribbon, it's easy to turn your previously unwanted cardboard into stylish gift tags ready for birthdays, Christmas or anniversaries. Simply cut out your desired shapes and make a hole in one corner. The ribbon can then be put through and tied. Of course, you may want to consider painting or covering the bare card if 'packaging brown' isn't to your tastes, although it can give a great home-made, rustic appearance. It can even evoke memories of vintage luggage tags. Try using a gold or silver pen to make the finish particularly special.

Cat toys

Cats might have a reputation for being miserable, but they're rarely fussy when it comes to choosing toys. Use this to your advantage by creating some exciting new cardboard playthings for your favourite feline friend. Depending whether you have one box to use or multiple, you could create a kitty castle or even a maze for your moggy. Use scissors or crafting knife to cut a few holes in the side and furnish the interior with something soft. The more tunnels and cubbyholes, the better! This won't just give your cat something new to play with but save a few pennies in the process.


The average cardboard box's primary purpose is to store things, so why not continue this in the home? Providing your box is strong enough, there's no reason you can't keep shoes, wine bottles or even books in them. Once again, the dull brown effect may not fit in with the rest of your house's décor but a lick of paint, some wallpaper coverage or just a freeform hand-drawn design should be enough to turn shabby into chic in no time. If you have a few boxes of the same size, you could pile them high to build something of a shelving unit.


If you think your car might have a bit of a leak, but can't work out what it is, try putting lightly coloured cardboard underneath and leave it overnight. When you go back to look in the morning, you'll know exactly where the leak is coming from. Also, if you show the results to a mechanic, they should be able to tell from the colour and texture exactly what the issue is, meaning they're in a better position to provide a solution.


Creating tables out of cardboard may be stretching it a bit, but there's no reason you can't use your boxes to keep what you already have looking nice. By cutting the panels into equally sized squares or circles - or any other shape you desire - you'll have some cheap and cheerful coasters to keep your drinks on. While they may not last quite as long as the real thing, they will soak up any minor spillages and are quick and easy to replace. With a few colourful markers or a bit of paint too, they'll be easy to decorate.

These are just some of the almost limitless uses of cardboard. So instead of popping your next box in the recycling, have a think about what else it could become.

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