How to make Christmas decorations out of ‘rubbish’

How to make Christmas decorations out of ‘rubbish’

By Reverse Garbage  December 17th, 2020

Creative reuse centre Reverse Garbage share their DIY decoration ideas.


As much as we all love Christmas, it is a very wasteful time of year. We generate up to 50 per cent more waste during the silly season including unwanted gifts, leftover food, single-use wrapping… the list goes on.

One way to reduce your waste is to reuse it creatively and turn it into unique decorations. Marrickville-based creative reuse centre Reverse Garbage shares five clever ideas on how to decorate using nothing but waste — or, as they prefer to call it: reuse resources.

“Once you start changing the way you think about waste, you realise how much of an underutilised resource it is. We encourage you to take note of what is thrown away this Christmas so you can take steps to improve that next year,” Kirsten Junor, Creative Director of Reverse Garbage, tells us.

Check out their sustainable decoration ideas below.

Soft plastic tinsel

Tinsel is made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC for short, which cannot be recycled, so ends up in landfill if it's not stored safely away to be used again next year. It's these kinds of plastics, used purely for aesthetics, we should be trying to avoid.

plastic tinsel on tree

How to make your own:

  1. Collect and clean your colourful soft plastic packaging. Cut an 8cm wide strip along the sealed edge so you get two layers of plastic to fringe.

  2. Cut across the strip every 5mm towards the sealed edge (but not through it) to make the fringe. Staple the lengths together until you have enough to go around your tree.

  3. Pack it away for next year or scrunch it up and take it to the REDcycle collection for soft plastic recycling. 

tinsel how 2

Bottle top garland

Another tinsel alternative that adds lot of colour and texture to your tree is a bottle top garland. You can wrap the tree or decorate outside as it’s definitely waterproof! Once you start collecting these lids, you’ll be surprised how quickly they add up.

tree decorations

How to make your own:

  1. Carefully pierce a hole in the centre of each lid using either a knitting needle, screwdriver, drill or a pair of scissors.

  2. Thread some wool or string onto a thick needle and start threading.

  3. Secure each end of the thread by wrapping it around the end bottle top.

File 000

Textile baubles

When you have clothes that are no longer in condition for anyone to wear, there’s other ways they can be used. That favourite shirt that no longer fits or the shorts you spilled paint on can live on as a Christmas pom-pom bauble for the tree or as large feature baubles around the home. It’s also a lovely way to create memories — every time you hang the bauble made from Uncle Bob’s favourite business shirt, you will remember him.

textile bauble

How to make your own:

  1. Make a pom-pom template with sturdy cardboard rescued from your recycling bin. A cereal box will do the job. Trace two circles from a cup or bowl to whatever size you’d like. Cut a 1cm wedge from the outside edge of the circle to the centre point, then cut a hole in the middle about the size of a 10 or 20 cent coin so it looks like a doughnut with a slice removed.

  2. Cut your fabric item into a 1cm strip — the longer the better. It doesn’t matter if you have irregular bits when you turn a corner on the fabric. Start by holding the end of the fabric at the outer edge of the template alongside the wedge, wrap through the centre hole and back to the outer edge. Continue wrapping from one edge all the way around to the other edge of the wedge and back again until the centre hole is full.

  3. With sharp scissors, you are going to cut through all layers of fabric around the outer edge of your circle. Use a 30cm strip of your fabric to tie tightly around the centre of the pom-pom. Pierce a hole through a plastic bottle lid to thread the end of your tie through. Tie a knot and it’s ready to hang.

textile bauble 1

Wrapped wreaths

This is another way to upcycle your leftover fabrics. You can use anything circular, we’ve used the edge of a yoghurt container lid. You could use a milk bottle lid, the base of a plastic bottle, coat hanger, bicycle tyre, it all depends on how large you’d like to go.

fabric wreath

How to make your own:

  1. Cut your old textiles into strips — narrow if your wreath is small, and much wider if you’ve gone for the bicycle tyre!

  2. Simply wrap until you can no longer see the original object, or you’ve reached your desired thickness.

  3. Secure the ends with a few simple stitches or a dab of glue. Create a bow from a contrasting fabric, or a ribbon you’ve saved from a gift. We’ve used a green wire tie that came on a bag of bread rolls.

fabric wreath how

Photo lids

Christmas is about celebrating the special people in our lives, and what better way than to have them smiling back at you from your tree. You could join these all together and make a family garland too!


How to make your own:

  1. Collect some plastic lids — you will get a better result with lids larger than the average milk bottle lid.

  2. Measure the diameter of the lid and arrange for some photos to be printed at the right size. No need to head to the photo shop as a colour laser print on regular paper will be fine.

  3. Place your lid onto the photo, trace around and cut. Glue your photo into place. Add a loop on the back from wool or saved string and it’s ready to display.

tree decorations


Positive Actions

Reverse Garbage

Reverse Garbage is a creative reuse centre making a difference in the world by reducing waste and creating change in the way we look at resources.

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