10 Creative Ways to Use Unwanted Prints

10 Creative Ways to Use Unwanted Prints

Have you recently inherited a bunch of old photographs?

Or perhaps you’re clearing out your own printed collection from the past few years (or decades)?

Once you’ve converted everything over to digital and organised it all, chances are you’ll be left with a nice collection of double-ups, blurry/dodgy photos, and prints you just don’t want to hold onto anymore.

So, what should you do with them?

Printed photos can’t be recycled with regular paper waste due to the materials in them. In most locations (without specialised facilities), the only method to dispose of modern film and printed photographs is through landfill.

Therefore, it makes sense to try and get as much out of your prints as you can – reuse them! And in future, be extremely considerate about what you choose to print, knowing that it can be difficult to recover the materials once they are used.

Ready to get creative? Here are our best ideas for how you can reuse and get more fun and joy out of your printed photos.

  1. Make Your Kids an Album

Kids love looking at pictures and photographs, but it can be a bit scary letting them handle our most precious prints. Young children and toddlers will often forget to be gentle. Why not throw together a few unwanted photographs into a little album or book and let your kids enjoy them? It won’t matter if anything gets ripped, grubby, or drawn on… and your kids will love it.

  1. Make Postcards

Depending on the size of your unwanted photo collection, you may not need to buy postcards again. A standard postcard size is 105 x 148mm, so a regular 4 x 6 inch (10 x 15cm) print is just about the perfect size to use. Get a permanent marker to write on the prints, add an address and appropriate stamp, and send them off!

  1. Historical Society

If the photos are of a historical nature (older, local, with recognisable features, locations, events, or people), contact your local historical society to see if they could use them. Most historical groups are happy to accept donations and build on their existing collection and knowledge, and you can feel good that your photos are being used and valued.

  1. Craft Box

Do your kids or grandkids have a craft box? Some of the most treasured items in a craft box are reusable/recycled items like bits of cardboard, packaging, and photos. Photo prints can be used to make collages, cut out shapes, and more. Leave it up to your kids and they’ll come up with something creative!

  1. Placemats

You can make placemats from your old photos by laying them onto clear contact paper and sealing the edges. If they catch a spill, you can wipe them down with a cloth. With a little care, they’ll last several months before they’ll need replacing. Handmade photo placemats also make wonderful Christmas gifts for family members.

  1. Jewellery

Want some unique, one-of-a-kind jewellery? You could make pendants or beads from your old photographs and turn them into earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. These make amazing gifts for family members, or you could even list your vintage-photo jewellery on Etsy. Once you are done, you could display your jewellery on your other photographs. If the photo is of another person’s profile, simply poke holes in their ears to display your earrings!

  1. Personalise Your Business Cards

Jazz up your business cards and personalise them with an old photo. This is perfect for one-sided business cards, so that you don’t cover up any important details. Cut your photos down to size, slightly larger than your business cards. Then use double-sized tape to stick your business card onto the photograph. This means that every card you give out will be totally unique and a wonderful talking point that demonstrates your personality and values. This idea is perfect for freelancers, crafters, and anybody who develops a close relationship with their customer.

  1. Pass Them On

Before you throw out your old photos, check if any other family members, friends, or schools could use the images for something. Just because you’ve finished with the photos, doesn’t mean that somebody else won’t have a use for them.

  1. Decorations

Do you have an event coming up, like a birthday celebration, holiday, or just want to jazz up your home? Turn your old photos into decorations! Use a template like this or cut out triangular flag shapes and hang them on string to make bunting. Bonus points if you use photos of special events from decades ago!

  1. Birthday Cards or Gift Tags

Finally, instead of purchasing (overpriced) birthday cards or gift tags, you can repurpose your old photographs to create some special and unique cards for friends and family. Simply fold a rectangle of card in half and mount your photo on the front with glue or double-sided tape. If you want to be creative, you can add other embellishments like…

  • Googly eyes
  • A strip of cardboard with words/phrases
  • A quote that goes with the picture (go for something old-school)
  • Washi tape to edge your photo
  • Ribbon, string, stickers, and more

We’d love to know… how many old photos do you have sitting around waiting for repurposing?

And do you have any other creative ways to reuse or repurpose your pictures?

  • The Filing Fairies | Are you a concious declutterer?
    Posted at 10:40h, 06 March

    […] physical photo collection and have photos to dispose of, we have previously shared ideas for how to reuse unwanted prints without sending them to landfill. And what about conscious consumption of photos? Take fewer photos […]

  • Jackie Davis
    Posted at 07:51h, 23 September

    The suggestion for place mats is superb!!

  • Carole Hayes
    Posted at 18:36h, 01 March

    No help whatsoever. I have hundreds of photographs gathered over my eighty odd years. Every elderly person will come up against this problem when their families dispose of their possessions. It’s about time governments and recyclers come up with a solution. There are limited uses for old photographs and I do not want to toss them into the garbage. As it is I must downsize and the local tip seems to be the only option.

    • Mara
      Posted at 11:10h, 04 March

      As passionate ecowarriors we applaud your desire to find environmental solutions to dispose of old photos. In our defence this blog is offering CREATIVE options, we can’t be held responsible for our government’s lack of options. We do have pending enquiries with Terracyle if you are interested in learning more.

  • Amy Piel-Glass
    Posted at 04:07h, 04 October

    Cut scrap wood into building blocks for kids, and decoupage old photos onto one, two, or all sides to add another dimension to play. (Be sure to sand the wood smooth for little fingers!). Got double prints? Cut out squares or rectangles of heavy cardboard and glue individual photos on one side. Do this with at least a dozen double prints -24 photos total – to make a home-made matching game for kids.