In ‘Recycling’ Category

Rear view of home made from an old classroom

Portable classroom home

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This simple, energy efficient home was once part of a school, writes Jacinta Cleary.

When it comes to building houses, Abbie Heathcote has tried almost everything.


In the 1960s, Abbie, a painter of landscapes, was drawn to the bush at Kangaroo Ground on Melbourne’s northern outskirts, building a mudbrick home.

In the 1980s she built an inspired home near Castlemaine in Central Victoria. Everything was done by hand and building materials salvaged from the tip, the bush and the roadside including tree trunks, stone, mudbricks, rocks, cow dung and sand dug from the riverside. This was undeniably an artist’s home, with a roof garden and an indoor dry creek bed. It took almost five years to build.

It was a different story with Abbie’s current home in Castlemaine, with the project taking only 13 weeks to complete. She had a head start with this dwelling, as it is made from a single portable classroom.

Just 20 kilometres away in Kyneton is BRB Modular’s ‘graveyard’, home to hundreds of demountable ex-classrooms. Abbie found a classroom slightly larger than most, meaning she could include two bedrooms, small as they are, so that her daughter can stay from time to time. The home has similar proportions to an inner city apartment, with an open plan living and kitchen area and a small bathroom/laundry. The main difference is that this 60 square metre ‘box’ has a 24 square metre deck added to it, with views that will only get better once the newly-planted trees grow up.

Anyone who went to school in portable classrooms might remember that they were incredibly cold, at least in the midst of a southern winter. Heating the rooms was hopeless because they are essentially steel or timber shells. To counter this, Abbie has added wall, floor and ceiling insulation, with the wall and ceiling insulation made out of recycled plastic bags. During an early morning visit after an overnight frost there’s no heating on but the full sun coming through the windows is enough to keep warm. Abbie says the house can stay warm until 9pm.

Read the full article in ReNew 112

The good parts inside old VCRs

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If you’re the type of person who sees possibilities when confronted with useable parts, there’s plenty to inspire inside a VCR, writes Julian Edgar.

Now is a great time to be salvaging VCRs. With the move to DVD players and, even more significantly, digital video recorders, VCRs are being discarded in huge numbers. You can find them at the tip, at garage sales, even in kerbside rubbish pick-ups. The most you should pay is a few dollars, but more often than not they are free.


So why would you bother salvaging a VCR? And wouldn’t it take hours to pull it apart to get the good bits? Well the answers are, respectively: lots of reasons and no. And contrary to what you might expect, the best bits are mechanical rather than electronic. The trick with salvaging VCRs is to quickly pull the thing apart, sort and keep the good bits and then get rid of the rest.

Here’s a typical starting point. This is what you might call a medium-age VCR. Older ones are better and heavy older ones are better again!

Why is this? The heavier a VCR, the better the quality of salvageable components inside. In fact, to go to extremes, the ancient U-matic video tape machines weigh an incredible amount (some can barely be lifted) and inside you’ll find engineering that is fantastic, including solenoids and switches.

On the other hand, a super lightweight VCR has generally less of everything you might want. However, any VCR is worth picking up for its parts. At the very least you should get a useful motor and a few other goodies.

Read the full article in ReNew 112
Alan and composter-web

Compost and old tyres

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Alan Lane explains his simple composting system, which is modular, expandable, self-aerating and best of all, free.

I’ve been collecting boxes full of fruit and vegetable waste from the local greengrocer to make compost—loads and loads of it! So much, in fact, that I found the usual system of piling the vegetable material in a heap—progressively adding more, turning it from time to time, then waiting—was not adequate. I was running into space problems and needed a more efficient system.


I needed a system that was expandable (i.e. modular), so one batch could be composting while another module was being filled, that didn’t need turning and that made efficient use of space. A bonus would be if I could make it out of recycled or discarded materials.

Here’s what I came up with—and it works a treat: a system of multi-level stacks of old car tyres!

Here’s how to do it…

Read the full article in ReNew 109

Do It Yourself garden bed

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Tim Nelson built a planter box out of a discarded pallet.

We have many pots on our rooftop patio but none are wide enough or deep enough to produce edibles other than herbs and the odd tomato. One thing that does abound in our neighbourhood is discarded materials from the local market. A broken, splintered crate destined for landfill inspired me one Sunday afternoon and I quickly set about creating a planter box in time for the spring planting.


First the pallet needs to be deconstructed. A trusty hammer and jemmy bar are all you need but try to keep the slats in as good a condition as possible. An easy way to decide the size of the planter box is to leave the length of the box as the original length of the pallet, making its width half the original length. The reason for this is it makes measuring and cutting simple, as you are only ever halving the length of the slats.

Constructing the side plates was simply a matter of nailing (or screwing) the long horizontal slats onto three vertical supports for the long sides and two supports on the short sides.

Construction of the base is exactly the same but you need to make the base plate roughly 40mm (four times the slat thickness) wider than the short sides. The reason for this is that when the sides and base come together, the vertical sides need to sit on the base for support, rather than being suspended next to it. If the short sides and base plate are the same width then this will not be possible.

Read the full article in ReNew 110