Mother watching daughter colouring in notebook with Puffin binoculars beside them

Upcycling for nature

Don't throw that milk carton away! Why not upcycle it? There's tons of stuff you can do with your rubbish!

Reducing, recycling and reusing is really important, and it can be fun, too! With a little creativity you can convert your waste into works of art and give rubbish a new purpose.


It's amazing how colourful packaging is. You can let your imagination go when creating wildlife inspired artwork from household waste. You could even make something to directly help wildlife, such as a bird feeder.


When it comes to bird feeders, hygiene is very important. Remember to keep feeders, bird tables and bird baths clean to keep the birds that use them, fit, healthy and disease free. 


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people have completed this activity

What you will need

Upcycling for nature is an easy activity and all you really need is lots of different types of packaging. In short, you'll require:

  • Lots of different types of packaging and other recycling, such as sweet wrappers, plastic bottles, cereal boxes, cardboard, and tin foil.
  • Paints, felt pens and colouring pencils to make your craftwork super snazzy
  • Scissors
  • Glue and sticky tape
  • Creative ideas or instructions to make something – see the instructions below or you could make a recycled bird feeder.
Dragonfly pegs

Step-by-step guide

  1. Go about your day normally, but think carefully about your waste and its impact on the environment.
  2. Separate your rubbish into the appropriate bins, washing any non-card/paper recycling before throwing it away or putting it aside for the craftwork described below.
  3. See if you can find any natural-looking colours in your recycling.
  4. Use your clean rubbish and the instructions below to make a recycled plant, insect or animal crafts.
  5. Don't forget to tell us when you have completed the activity! When you mark the activity as complete, you will be asked to upload a photo of your craftwork to show us what you did to help the environment.
Sweetie insects

Completing the activity

Use the 'Mark as complete' button at the top of this page to tell us you've completed your activity. You'll need to show us what you did by uploading a photo of what you or your family created by recycling household waste Alternatively, draw or paint what you did or upload a description of your experience.

Bottle bug

Lolly stick wading birds

Wading birds are often characterised by their feeding habits and long legs! Long legs are particularly handy for standing in the shallows of a river, pond or estuary. 

After you've made your recycled wader, perhaps you could make a few foil fish for it to eat!

You will need

  • A cereal box or other stiff card
  • Coloured sweet wrappers or other translucent plastic - or anything else that could be made to look a bit like feathers
  • Lolly sticks for the legs, or pipe cleaners for the fancy legs
  • Googly eyes
  1. Print the template here and draw round it onto card. 
  2. Cut it out and start decorating it using sweet wrappers and other bits of household rubbish - you could try to copy a real bird like a heron or bittern, or just make up your own!
  3. Add lolly stick or pipe cleaner legs to your wader - make sure they're nice and long for wading!
  4. Add a pair of googly eyes.

Bin bugs

Real bugs around your bin aren't ideal, but these colourful buzzers will liven up the rubbish pile. 

Let's make a bottle bug, dragonfly pegs and sweetie insects!

You will need

  • A drinks bottle for the bottle bug
  • Clothes pegs for the dragonflies
  • Coloured foil or sweet wrappers
  • Glue or tape
  • Googly eyes!

Bottle bug

  1. Decorate your drinks bottle using paints or by wrapping it in other colourful recycling material  and sticking it down. 
  2. Cut some wings out of card and stick them to your bottle. 
  3. You can add legs and antennae using pipe cleaners.
  4. Don't forget to give your bug a face and a name!
  5. Add googly eyes.

Dragonfly pegs

  1. Paint your pegs to look like a real dragonfly, or invent your own species.
  2. You need to add wings too, so either bend pipe cleaners into a figure of eight or twist some sweet wrappers and then glue them between each part of the peg.
  3. You can add legs too, or you could you leave your dragonfly in flight mode! 
  4. Add googly eyes.

Sweetie insects

  1. Twist a sweet wrapper or piece of foil.
  2. Bend and secure a pipe cleaner around the wrapper to create a simple wing-body insect.
  3. Attach as many sweetie insects as you like to ribbons to create an attractive swarm.
Dragonfly pegs and sweetie insects

Upcycled waste woodland

There's nothing quite like a British woodland. And now you can recreate your own with an easily accessible item - the humble cardboard tube!

Pine, ancient or coppice is as easy as one, two, tree...

You will need

  • Cereal box cardboard for branches and canopies
  • Green-coloured recycled material
  • Cardboard tubes such as those from toilet or kitchen rolls!
  1. Paint or decorate your cardboard tubes to look like tree trunks - you can add detail with a dark marker pen.
  2. Cut slits up the sides of the trunks for your branches to slot into.
  3. Get creative and draw some branch shapes - you can paint them afterwards too!
  4. Slot your branches into the slots you cut on the trunk.
  5. Now it's time to chop out some leaf shapes. Find lots of different greens amongst your recycling and cut out lots of leaves, then glue them to your tree.
  6. One down - a forest to go. If you run out of green materials, you could try using anything that's orange, yellow or red to create autumnal trees too!

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