100+ pieces of trash to upcycle into junk journals

One of my favorite things to do is to turn junk into art. A large part of my collage materials collection is just stuff I’ve saved from the trash– personal ephemera, yes, but also things like junk mail, catalogs, fruit stickers, etc. Not only am I recycling something and getting a second use out of it, but I’m saving money by using something I already have instead of buying something new.

If you’ve never made a junk journal before, or if you aren’t used to creating collages using personal ephemera, then you may not realize just how much trash can be saved and used for creative purposes. Dozens of pieces of potential art supplies show up in your house every day: stuff in the mail, stuff you bring home, and stuff people give you.

Use this list as a starting place to get thinking about what you can save and use in your mixed media collages or junk journals. Not every piece of trash should go into a junk journal, but some trash has more use than you might realize. All of the items on this list are things that I have used for junk journals, collages, or some other art thing!

For instance: a collection of junk mail envelopes can be turned into a journal. Cereal boxes and soda can tabs can be made into junk journal tabs. Birthday cards and gift cards can be used for painting a mixed media collage background.

Keep an eye out for future how-to’s on turning this trash into art treasure!

Trash You Can Upcycle Into Art

1. Junk mail envelopes
2. Cereal boxes
3. Air pocket package padding
4. Amazon padded envelopes
5. Cardstock-style junk mail
6. Catalogs
7. Tissue boxes
8. Toilet paper rolls
9. Paper towel rolls
10. Bottle caps (metal and plastic)

11. Old gift cards
12. Cardboard “credit cards” from CC offers
13. Paper towels used to catch paint from art journals
14. Snippets from collage pieces
15. Glass jars (like from spaghetti sauce)
16. Bubble wrap
17. Netting from onions or fruit
18. Wrapping paper (probably from presents)
19. Ribbon (also from presents)
20. Clothing tags

21. Receipts and invoices
22. Postage stamps from letters
23. Old calendar pages
24. Tea bags
25. Tea tags, i.e. the little tag at the end of the tea bag string
26. Coffee grounds (dried out after use)
27. Coffee bags
28. Old sheets or pillow cases
29. Little foam pieces from packaging
30. Washi tape tubes

31. Soda can boxes
32. Oatmeal containers
33. Old homework or college essays
34. Damaged books
35. Strings or chains from broken necklaces
36. Bread bag tags
37. Those little barcode stickers on flat mail
38. Price stickers
39. Promotional magnets
40. Business cards

41. Aluminum foil
42. Thicker plastic pieces from packaging
43. Fruit stickers
44. Magazine mail-in subscription forms
45. Shipping paper
46. Shoe boxes
47. Tissue paper from new clothing or shoes
48. Candy wrappers
49. Game pieces (from broken or incomplete board games)
50. Used board game sheets (e.g. Clue or Pictionary)

51. Labels from water or soda bottles
52. Picture frame inserts
53. Paper filler from new purses
54. Birthday cards
55. Movie tickets
56. Soda can tabs
57. Leftover yarn from knitting projects
58. Confetti strings (shot out at audiences for graduations or concerts)
59. Newsletters
60. Local weekly newspapers (the free kind)

61. Freebie magazines (usually from grocery stores)
62. Recipe cards
63. Expired coupons
64. Buttons from ripped clothing (or the extra ones from new clothes)
65. Beads from broken jewelry
66. Old CDs/damaged DVDs
67. Egg cartons (a classic)
68. Cardboard box flaps
69. Tourist pamphlets
70. City maps

71. Popsicle sticks
72. (Unused) straws from fast food restaurants
73. Napkins
74. Paper plates
75. Coffee filters (used or unused)
76. Used printer paper
77. Transparencies (if you happen to have a box)
78. Twist-ties
79. Bent paperclips
80. Rubber bands

81. Milk jugs
82. Brown paper fast food bags
83. Plastic grocery bags
84. Brown paper grocery bags
85. Cardboard cup holders
86. Starbucks [cup wraps]
87. Cereal bags (the semi-clear kind that comes in boxed cereal)
88. Hair ties
89. Small cardboard boxes (from junk food, usually)
90. Holiday cards

91. School folders
92. CD/DVD cases
93. Fabric scraps from sewing projects
94. Used sewing patterns
95. Outdated planner pages
96. Used Post-it notes with interesting handwriting
97. Shopping lists
99. Packaging inserts with cool graphics
100. Instruction booklets
101. Broken umbrellas

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