Projects – Upcycled Kitty Litter Buckets

Wikipedia defines Upcycling as: “Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value.”

I have been setting large 35-pound kitty litter buckets aside for several months. They are too sturdy to throw away, and they are not the kind of plastic that I can put into the recycle bin. I decided to use them for container growing. Before I filled them with soil, I knew I needed to do something to make them look a little more presentable. I was determined to keep the project as low-cost as possible, and use things I already had around the house. Hmmm…what to do? Plastic is notoriously resistant to paint. Buying the special spray paint made for plastic was out of the question. It is expensive and I am not sure how well it works. I have a lot of fabric scraps on hand and wondered how I could glue them to the bucket and waterproof them at the same time. I came up with the idea of using old latex paint we have in the house.  If you’ve ever touched a fabric dropcloth after paint has dried you know how stiff it becomes. It also will work like glue, and so my idea was born. Below are the easy steps to putting together a fabric covered kitty litter bucket that is durable and waterproof.

Step One: Wash bucket and let dry. Drill holes in the bottom of the bucket. I also bore holes in one of the buckets with a sharp pair of garden shears. It took forever, but if you don’t have drill it is an option.

Step Two: Gather together old latex paint you have around the house. I added whites to some reddish purples and greens. Red and green are opposite each other on the color wheel and this created exactly the color I wanted, a grey reminiscent of concrete.

Step Three: I cut pieces of old sheets to size, making sure they wrapped around the bucket with about two inches of overlap. I then began to paint the buckets with an old paint brush. (Important Tip: It’s messy! Wear some disposable plastic gloves) After I covered a side with paint I pressed the sheet into the paint and then painted over it. I continued until the whole bucket was covered. I didn’t try to smooth out all the wrinkles as they added some interest. To add texture and make the bucket look like real concrete I threw play sand all over the wet paint. At this point I set the bucket aside to dry overnight. The next morning the painted/sanded fabric was dry, stuck fast to the sides, and waterproof.

I wanted to decorate the top in some way. I did not paint inside the bucket. I don’t know if growing food inside something painted with latex paint is safe. I know that some gardeners who are strictly organic will not grow food in plastic, but I have decided since I will be doing everything else organically, no pesticides, etc., I am not going to become fanatical about growing in plastic. There has to be a place you draw the line, and that is my line in the sand, but anyway back to the directions.

Step Four: I am an avid beachcomber and have many baskets of seashells, sea glass and driftwood. I had to put out a little money on the adhesive used to decorate the top borders. I used silicone caulk in a caulk gun and affixed shells to one side at a time. I let each side dry at least six hours before turning the bucket and proceeding with the next side. To put a border on all four sides of ten buckets I needed three tubes of silicone caulk. The safety seal on the silicone assured me it would be safe to use on items that would hold food. To add a double precaution I tried to keep it away from where water might pass over it and into the bucket.

I’m pleased with the finished result. Mine are decidedly beachy, but they also wouldn’t look bad plain, or maybe dressed up with moss, sticks, vines, anything that would add a bit of the outdoors without costing much.

One thought on “Projects – Upcycled Kitty Litter Buckets

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