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What better way to celebrate Earth Day than to learn new ways to recycle? Here are a few I've garnered across the years.

Newspapers: amazing garden mulch. A layer of newspapers will block weeds better than almost anything else I've tried. With a bit of time they decompose to wonderful loam. You don't need to worry about lead anymore because it isn't used in newspaper ink now. A light topcoat of something that is nicer to look at can finish the newspapers off for the aesthetically minded. There is nothing that I've used that is better for turning bad lawn into good flowerbeds or vegetable garden.

Other uses: slightly crumpled, it can help start charcoal fires. Some swear by it for cleaning windows. Torn up into strips, it's great for papier-mâché.

Wood ash: if you burn hardwood in the fireplace, you already know that it produces a lot of ash over the years. We are just discovering what a wonderful complement fireplace ash is for gardeners. Here's a link to some of its magic. Not only is wood ash a good fertilizer, it is also useful at discouraging creeping pests if sprinkled on the surface of the ground.

Egg shells: we used to throw away egg shells because they looked ugly in the compost. We recently discovered that eggshells are also a godsend to gardeners. Some crushed egg shells in the planting hole for tomatoes prevents blossom end rot, that discouraging problem when one end turns black or worse the fruit fails to develop. This enthusiast has found even more ways to use egg shells (I haven't tried all of them).

Dryer lint: I use dryer lint to make firestarters. These firestarters actually use three saved and recycled objects. Pack the dryer lint into the cups of a papier-mâché style egg carton. Pour melted wax from leftover candle ends carefully into the cups to fill them. Some folks like to use dryer lint to line the bottom of flowerpots to prevent dirt from leaking out the drainage holes. We also found it made a great insulating packing for our outdoor water faucet this winter when the temperatures dropped below zero. And even more great ideas!

Egg cartons: if you haven't used up all your papier-mâché style egg cartons making firestarters, the ones that are left can be used to start seeds. One seed per cup gives a nice individualized starter tray. The papier-mâché can be left on and planted entire or peeled off at planting, depending on your preference. Other uses for egg cartons, including some that work with styrofoam cartons. I'd add that if you mixed some peanut butter with the bird seed, it will stay in the carton better.

Plastic food containers: obviously these could be recycled with other plastics usually if you have local recycling. However it's even more efficient to reuse them at home. We get most of our gardening containers this way. A half gallon oval ice cream container can be cut in half at the midline. The bottom makes a starter tray for seeds and the top can be inverted with some plastic wrap and put over the bottom during that stage when the wee seeds need to be kept moist.  Pint yogurt and cottage cheese containers can be used for the intermediate transplanting stage for middle sized plants. Frozen orange juice containers can be cut in half and both halves used for this as well. One nice thing about the container without the bottom is the transplants just slip right out into your hand for transplanting. Half gallon milk jugs cut off about the third of the way along the long axis make a nice treat holder for these containers. Select milk containers that don't have dimples to make the best ones.

The list could go on and on. Share your favorites and I'll update the diary. Happy Earth Day!

Leap the orange croissant for even more great ideas shared in the comments -

From art ah zen: Plastic bread bags

.… i use a lot of them to pick up dog eggs in the yard, i roll them up tight and put them in the little pouch made for dog clean up bags that is on rubi's lead.  i use them to cover food on the counter in the kitchen while defrosting or coming to room temp.  i use them where i might have used a zip lock in the short term.  i put them in stuff i need to mail instead of packing peanuts.  you might be able to make a deal with your local restaurant to pick empty bags up on a regular basis and get the use of them.  
From Mr Robert: Cooking oil
It takes me a number of months to accumulate a gallon of cooking oil, but it slowly adds up. Whenever I have a bit of oil left in a skillet I add it to a gallon of spent oil that I keep handly and when it's full I take it to my recycle center.

If you call your local waste disposal company you'll probably find that they do collect cooking oil and recycle it. It's fairly new but even smaller counties here in California are doing it.

Of course you don't want to burn five gallons of gasoline to turn in a gallon on cooking oil, so wait until you have a load of recycling material to make the trip.

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