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11 Cool Things You Can Make Out of Ordinary Waste Cardboard To Help Lower Landfill


Look around you right now. Chances are you’re within 20 paces of some form of waste cardboard…packaging, wrapping, boxes, containers, you name it. Despite the march of progress we seem to use as much, if not more, of the stuff. Maybe it’s all’s fault? Whatever the reason, there’s no need for us to make matters worse by just chucking it all onto landfill, as happens a lot.

We should take inspiration from these people and try and work out how we can use our waste packaging better. Here’s some ideas.

Camera Lens Hood


Do you know how much a top end camera lens hood costs? A bit of plastic to keep the sun out of a lens? Anything up to $600, that’s what. Well now you can save that money, and a bit of landfill, by using some of your packaging to build a DIY lens hood. The LensHoods site has free PDF templates available for download covering all the major lens types. They’re easy to make, recyclable and you can modify them for your own needs.

DIY Wallet


What better way to show your concern for the environment and personal frugality than by making yourself a paper or card wallet? There’s a handy design template available free of charge which lets you use your own exterior images, and you can follow the instructions here on this site. It may not impress your boss when you pull it out to pay for lunch, but when did you last do that anyway? Cheapskate!

The Dirkon Camera


Those of you with a retro mindset will appreciate the fact that even though Kodak and co have pulled out of the film market, there’s still a sizeable enthusiasts market for products which rely on celluloid for photographic joy. This pinhole camera design relies heavily on olde time design chops, and while we’re not going to claim the results will match your Nikon DSLR, just think of the kudos you’ll get when you whip this out at the next office get together.

Windsurfer Parabolic Wireless Signal Improver


Everyone needs a better Internet signal in their home, it’s as certain as taxes. You can never get enough bandwidth. Rather than spending cash on an expensive signal booster, try using one of these Windsurfer Parabolic Signal Booster and watch your as your signal is magically enhanced. You’ll need to glue some tin foil to the back to make it work, but we’re sure the planet will forgive you.

Cardboard Wall Storage


Just because it’s cardboard doesn’t mean it has to look cheap and tacky. These delightful wall storage units perform an extremely useful task, look great and cost a fraction of the price of alternative material options. We wouldn’t advise you to store anything heavy in them (put the iron away, Gran) but what a great solution for knick-knacks, keys and the like.

Kraftwerk Cardboard Chair


For just 5 Euros you can download the plans to this delicious Kraftwerk DIY Cardboard Chair. You’ll need to source the material from somewhere else (maybe your local appliance or thrift store?) and you can choose your own type of cushion filling to deliver the comfort bit. And yes, the chair can hold up to 95kg / 209 lb, so don’t fret.

iPhone Card Dock


Sleek, elegant and functional, perfect for the phone with the same ethos. The PDF plans for this simple smartphone dock are available for free download, and in both European and US paper sizes. We do advise that you use a slightly more sturdy card than you’re seeing in the images, just to ensure your precious handset doesn’t end up in the cat bowl by mistake.

Cardboard Robot


Probably one for the geeks only, but what a cool project. Mike Estee built this little cardboard robot while unemployed last year, and while it’s not going to worry Sony’s Aibo, it’s amazing what you can do with a bit of waste card. And a micro computer. And some servos. OK, so it’s not going to be zero cost, but for street cred this is one part recycled project that’s hard to beat. The plans are available for free download at the bottom of the post on his site.

Cardboard Costume


Should all recycling be super serious, or can we have some fun with it as well? Discuss. While you’re waiting, take a look at this neat project to build a very slick costume. Of course it helps if you’re already an artist, but even so we have to be impressed that ordinary cardboard can be brought to life to craft something so professionally and, we assume, relatively cheap.

Card Picture Frame


You have to wonder exactly how much we collectively spend on picture frames in any one year, it’s probably a serious amount of money. These frames are more specifically paper, rather than card, because they need to be ink-jet printed to do them justice, but what’s a few grams weight between friends? We think the end result is very nice, and it’s such a simple idea.

Cardboard toy


No discussion of DIY cardboard hacks could pass without discussion of children’s toys, so we thought we would find the easiest, most simple design we could, just to show that anyone can make cardboard work nicely. This shape box is a perfect example. Grab your box, cut holes, apply nursery colors, and there you go.

Honorary Mentions

The following aren’t strictly DIY projects, but they serve as inspirational examples of the kind of thing you can do with cardboard when you let imagination and determination have a free reign.

Cardboard Bicycle


For our money, this is one of the most brilliant uses of recyclable materials ever. Izhar Gafni spent 2 years developing his cardboard skills and the result is an absolutely amazing product that costs around £6 to buy, and is waterproof and fireproof to boot. The thing can even carry riders p to 220 kgs in weight and he has plans to develop an electric version. Awesome.

Cardboard Bookshop


This superbly clever and yet simple design delivers such a lot of value without trying too hard at all. The materials are clearly cardboard, but what better stuff to use to show off books? The project was part of a design festival in 2010, and we think it’s a perfect way to demonstrate how we should be able to stop squandering and start using common waste materials in the future.

Cardboard Couch


It’s a couch. Made of corrugated cardboard. What else is there to say? We love the simplicity and yet it’s clearly designed to be used, rather than just looked at. The cushions are filled with crumpled paper however, so we’re not sure how long they would last with a house full of kids and pets.

IKEA Knappa Digital Camera


When the mighty IKEA does something, the world takes notice, so this cute little cardboard digital camera caused a mighty stir last year when it was introduced to the world. It’s not for sale, just part of a promotion for an IKEA product line, but the idea of using a cardboard case for a 2.3 megapixel digital camera is nothing short of brilliant.

Caine’s Arcade


And last (but oh so definitely not least), the undisputed, all conquering hero of cardboard recycling, young 9 year old Caine Monroy of East L.A., who spent a whole summer vacation building an elaborate DIY cardboard arcade in his dad’s auto parts store. The whole project was so unbelievably well done that it attracted the notice of a passer by, who was then inspired to make a short film about it. The rest, as they say, is history. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the video below. It’s amazing. Oh, and the arcade is still open for visitors.



Before we go, here’s an excellent page which offers a wealth of information on how to work with cardboard, all done in loving detail with images and instructions. If you’re inspired by this post to go out and make your own little bit of cardboard heaven, we suggest you start with this page first. And well done for reaching this far! Adios!

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