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8 crafty ways to recycle, reuse old credit cards

By Erin Peterson

There's no question that Americans carry a whole lot of plastic. According to one recent survey, the average consumer has 3.5 open credit cards. Add that to the gift cards, club cards and loyalty cards that most of us pick up, and we can easily carry a dozen cards with us wherever we go. That's 3.6 billion cards that will eventually get used up, expire or become worthless.

But just because you can't use the cards for their original purpose doesn't mean you have to send them to the landfill. Julie Charles, one of the crafty folks who is breathing new life into old cards, says people are delighted to donate their plastic to a new cause. "Friends and family are so happy to find someone who can use old hotel keys, expired credit cards and used gift cards," she says. "They love knowing that they'll be repurposed and not end up in a landfill."

Reuse your plastic to improve your life -- and the environment. Here are eight smart ideas that you can make yourself from your old cards.

  1. iPhone stand
  2. Battery card cover
  3. Earrings
  4. Grappling hook
  5. Jacob's ladder
  6. Cable organizer
  7. Magic wallet
  8. Guitar picks
iPhone stand

iPhone stand You may now have the capacity to watch a full-length movie on your cell phone, but who wants to hold a phone for two straight hours? Not us, that's for sure. Bryan Casey says his child inspired him to create this clever contraption. "I created it so my kid could watch movies on a plane or at a restaurant," he says. "I wanted something low-profile enough to fit in my wallet." Adults can benefit, too; Just use your expired credit cards to create a stand that can be stored flat but quickly assembled to put on your desk or airplane seatback tray. That'll leave your hands free to eat popcorn and guzzle soda. Check out the details here.

Battery Card CoverBattery card cover If you've ever lost the battery cover to a remote control, a mouse or any other small electronic device, you know exactly how exasperating it is to keep your batteries from tumbling onto the floor. Duct tape, rubber bands and twine are all crummy solutions, and buying a whole new gadget seems awfully wasteful. Sidestep these problems with the clever battery card covers designed by Instructable's Deathstick. While Deathstick notes that you might have to make small adaptations for the quirks of an individual device, the instructions provided will work for most gadgets.

EarringsEarrings Who says the bling you wear has to be made of gold and diamonds? Jewelry made from credit cards can be just as shiny -- and that plastic once had much more value per ounce than most precious stones. Designer Michele Rappaport says if you're going to wear cards on your ears, don't bother being subtle. "I like bold, graphic designs in bright colors," she says. Wear them for good luck at the casino -- or maybe just when you're headed to the mall. Learn to make them yourself at ehow.com or buy a set at etsy.com.

Grappling HookGrappling Hook Instructable's Noahw doesn't recommend climbing any vertical surfaces with this MacGyver-like grappling hook, but says you can still have fun with it. "It's perhaps better for snagging something off of a co-worker's desk than for actually scaling walls," he says. "It's silly, for sure, but fun for people to play around with." To achieve the best results, Noahw suggests taping two thin cards together, but says a single stiff card might work just as well. Find full instructions here at Instructables.com.

Jacob's Ladder Jacob's Ladder The old-timey toy gets a modern update in Julie Charles' credit card version of the Jacob's ladder. In some ways, she says, the new version is an improvement on the old standard: "I love the colors and textures of the cards," she says. "It's very satisfying to make something people enjoy out of materials that would otherwise be thrown away." Use club cards or expired gift cards for this project because, in the wrong hands, access even to expired credit cards could be dangerous. Take a class to learn how to make more credit card crafts.

Cable OrganizerCable Organizer Those credit cards helped you buy the computer, the printer and scanner sitting on your desk; they can also help you organize all the cords that help power them. "The credit card is perfect for cable management as it is very strong, and you're supposed to destroy them anyway," says DIYer Creatrop. Creatrop suggests finding a card that's quite flexible and then gluing multiple cards together if the cards need to support more than a few ounces.

Magic WalletMagic Wallet What better place to stash your cash, business cards and receipts than in a wallet made of credit cards? This clever storage device has been around for decades, but this 21st century variation helps hide your valuables within your valuables. Charles says that flat, laminated cards can work especially well for this project.

Guitar PicksGuitar Picks For musicians, guitar picks are an inexpensive, indispensable tool -- but they're sometimes impossible to find when you need them. Charles says you can create your own endless supply of guitar picks with some extra credit cards, a Sharpie, and a pair of scissors. She suggests trying a range of different cards to get your preferred thickness and flexibility-but to avoid the laminated cards. "The layers come apart," she notes.

See related: 5 Earth-friendly credit card moves you can make now, Industry looks in vain for replacement for plastic credit cards, Teaching old credit cards new tricks, 10 ways to go green with credit cards, 10 creative -- or desperate -- uses for credit cards, Top 10 creative ways to wrap gift cards

Published: April 6, 2010



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