Repurposing and upcycling is all-around cool. Not only is it the most eco-friendly way to keep used items out of the landfills, but it can also be incredibly innovative. Just check out Nick Pourfard’s handcrafted guitars in the video above, made out of old skateboards. Every guitar Pourfard creates comes with a ton of history built right into it — memories of crashes and successes alike etched into the lines of each unique piece. Through his work, he transforms one familiar object into something entirely different.
But what about other products that have, through their transformations, taken on a whole new and greater purpose? We’re not talking about repurposing old objects — we’re talking about items and brands that were originally created to do one thing but, somewhere along the way, picked up an entirely new function. We’re talking about rubber turning into chewing gum, and wallpaper morphing into bubble wrap.
Read on for the crazy history behind seven familiar objects.
All James Wright was trying to do back in 1943 was come up with a superior synthetic rubber for the war effort. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what happened when he decided to drop boric acid into silicone oil. But…we’re sort of glad. Because what came out was way stretchier and bouncier than rubber. And even though the government deemed Wright’s discovery a failure, businessman Peter Hodgson saw its potential as a fun hit at parties. He gave it the snappy name “Silly Putty,” packaged it in plastic eggs, sold it at Easter, and the rest is history.
The coolest part about Silly Putty: people have taken it even further, inventing uses for it that range from stabilizing wobbly tables to holding tools in the zero gravity of outer space. That’s like a double repurposing!
If you’ve ever wondered how effective Listerine is at clearing out those nasty mouth bugs, consider this: it was originally created to be a surgical antiseptic. Named after Dr. Joseph Lister, who was the first to start experimenting with disinfecting hospital rooms prior to surgery after learning about Louis Pasteur’s theory of infection-causing germs, Listerine was formulated by Dr. Nicole Dyer Lawrence and Christian Bach in 1879. Though its original intent was for use as a surgical antiseptic, it was marketed for everything from cleaning floors to cleaning wounds to treating gonorrhea. Eventually, it caught the attention of dentists, and, after the company invented the word “halitosis” to replace “bad breath” in 1920, it took off in its as a mouthwash. No wonder the stuff is so strong.
Can you imagine a house covered in bubble wrap wallpaper? How much fun would that be, right? You come home after a tough day of work and take your anger out on the walls. Ah, we can dream. If only Al Fielding and Marc Chavannes’ invention back in 1957 had taken a different turn, that world might be a reality today.