By Amanda Wills on Jul 26, 2010

6 Ways to Reuse Plastic Bottles


Let’s take a trip down memory lane to fifth grade science class. Besides getting a wicked kick of caffeine from that 2-liter bottle of Surge, those bottles also made grade A project materials as seedling planters and tornado hourglasses.

But now that we’re all adults here, craft projects may not be as cool anymore (if this is the case, finish reading this article first and then find a new group of friends).

1. Woven plastic bottle vase

A project for less than $5: All you need to make this fancy-looking vase is a soda bottle and pair of scissors. Photo: Wikihow

From a distance, you would never guess this vase was plastic. Plus, it’s virtually unbreakable, and you can recycle it if you decide to redecorate.

Difficulty level: Beginner

What you’ll need: 20-ounce soda bottle, scissors, pencil (for marking)

How to make it:

1. Mark and cut the smooth middle portion of the bottle to give an even edge that’s approximately 7.5 to 8 centimeters above desired position of fluted rim.

2. Measure and mark straight, evenly spaced cuts all the way around the bottle. Cut the segments in half; then cut each of those in half to make even, thin strips.

3. Carefully press and fold all the strips outward to make a level edge all the way around. Press the bottle upside down on a flat surface to ensure an even edge.

4. Weave the tip of a strip over the next one and under the next two. Fold and crease it so that the tip is at the place (see photos from original post for a visual representation. We promise it isn’t as hard as it sounds).

5. Fold and crease the next one the same way, but weave this one over two and under one. Fold the third strip and weave the same as the first one. Continue around in this pattern until the last three and tuck each one under the next until woven in completely.

Bonus tip: Add a touch of color by using green soda bottles.

2. The plastic bottle lamp

This project comes from a Popular Science project that dates back to 1961. Photo: Joel Barnard, Popular Science

Why did we use “the”? Because we have seen a lot of ways to make lamps out of plastic bottles, but this is by far the most believable (and by that we mean it doesn’t look like an Evian bottle with a light bulb shoved into the top).

In fact, on first glance, we didn’t think this design by Popular Science was even made from plastic bottles. Using the “smart-looking shapes” of detergent bottles as inspiration, this classic design dates back to 1961.

Difficulty level: Advanced

What you’ll need: plastic bottle, X-acto blade knife, drill, Vaseline, hollow threaded rod, hot glue gun, prescription medicine bottle, Smooth-On 305, fine-grit sandpaper, flat washer, lock washer, nut, lamp cord, lamp shade, lamp socket

How to make it: Popular Science outlined this project in its 12-step photo guide. The entire thing will run you around 50 bucks.

Bonus tip: The ideal bottle for this project still keeps its shape after all the liquid has been removed. So, don’t choose one that’s too thin and flimsy.

Look for bottles with minimal surface detail. Before starting the project, peel off the label and you’ll find many bottles have been designed with texture, but according to the author, this won’t help with your design.

3. Plastic bottle beads

For this project, we’re literally giving you the materials to make some even more rad designs – from jewelry creations to beaded door coverings.

The original instructions for this design came from our friends at ThreadBanger (a DIY junkie heaven), but we found some other cool tips and photos on Zakka Life.

The plastic bead project is just the beginning of other rad designs. Think outside the bottle! Photo: Zakka Life

Difficulty level: Moderate

What you’ll need: plastic bottle, permanent marker, heat gun, pliers

How to make it:

1. Wash and cut plastic bottles into strips that are about 1 centimeter wide. Cut strips into a point.

2. Color plastic strips with permanent marker. (One designer also added a drip of golden paint.)

3. Roll up plastic and secure with pliers. Use heat gun to melt and hold bead shape together. Let dry.

Bonus tip: If you don’t have a heat gun, a hair dryer will work as well. If you don’t have a steady hand to draw shapes on your beads with your markers, try gluing washi paper to the plastic.

Be sure to only cover part of the plastic before rolling it up so that only the design will be exposed.

4. Soda bottle coin purse

If you haven’t noticed, zippers are in this season. From skinny dresses to bulky necklaces, exposed zippers are fashion statements.

But you don’t have to spend $30 on a stylish coin purse from that trendy boutique. Just make your own. The best part about this design from Green Upgrader is that you can choose your own style to match your wardrobe.

Some variations include cutting a bottle lengthwise to create a clutch purse. Along those lines you could find a two liter bottles and make a larger pocket book. Photo: Paris Tsitsos for Zitta Schnitt Designs

Difficulty level: Moderate

What you’ll need: two 20-ounce plastic bottle, zipper, Nylon thread, knife, thin needle, hole-punch, tape

How to make it:

1. Cut off the bottoms of plastic bottles at approximately 2.5 centimeters. Cut out the auxiliary construction and, using tape, stick it to the edge of the cut-out bottom.

2. Use a hole-punch to pierce the bottom where the auxiliary construction marks the stitching holes with dots. Remove auxiliary construction.

3. Pass the Nylon thread through the eye of thin needle and sew zipper around the first bottom and back. Repeat with second bottom.

Bonus tip: Download the PDF version of this project to get a step-by-step photo explanation.

Perhaps not the traditional lava lamp you remember, but it’s cheap, fun project for the little ones. Photo: Leslie Quigley, Eco Childs Play

5. DIY lava lamp

Now you don’t have to take a trip to that creepy Spencer’s store in the mall to go back to your teenage years.

OK, we’ll admit that this design from Simple Earth Media doesn’t have the zing that your old $40 lamp had, but it’s no doubt a fun rainy day project for the kids.

Difficulty level: Beginner

What you’ll need: plastic water bottle, vegetable oil, funnel, water, food coloring, masking tape or glue

How to make it:

1. Peel of the label and wash your bottle. Fill 3/4 of the bottle with oil.

2. Fill a measuring cup with an equal amount of water and add a couple of drops of food coloring.

3. Pour colored water into bottle of oil. Secure cap with glue or masking tape, and have a great time.

Bonus tip: Make sure your kids appreciate the oil-doesn’t-mix-with-water analogy before splurging on that real lava lamp.

6. Geometric lamp shade

OK, so we have told you how to do this before. But these lamp shades are so hot, we couldn’t pass them up again. And what would this article be without Sarah Turner’s design? An incomplete one.

When we saw Sarah Turner’s trendy lamp made from plastic drink bottles, we had to learn how to make it – without an electrician and a ton of money. Photo: Sarahturner.co.uk

So, we did a little digging and found Instructable’s universal lamp shade polygon building kit. Score!

Difficulty level: Advanced

What you’ll need: Tracing design (get it here), PET bottles (number of bottles depends on size of your lamp), a raw socket on a cord (try Ikea), CFL bulb (it won’t melt the plastic)

How to make it:

1. Trace your pieces and cut them using scissors or a knife. If you’re really advanced, you can also make a “cookie cutter” out of sheet metal in the shape of the part. Then heat the cutter and use it to stamp out the parts. (Let us know how that works out.)

2. The assembly will be the hardest part. Instructables recommends just fitting the parts together first and experimenting to get the right geometric shape. Be sure that the corners of each cutout fit neatly together. Note that there really isn’t a way to make concave corners, only convex corners.

3. Cut slots into the corners of the pieces so they can neatly fit together. Warning: This can get really frustrating, so don’t give up!

Bonus tip: You will need sheets of paper or plastic that allow light to get through. The stiffness of your material determines how large your pieces can be – stiffer material for larger pieces and larger lamps, thinner material for smaller pieces and smaller lamps.

Related articles
Fresh Tips for Reusing Plastic
Awesome DIY Reuse Ideas
Fun Crafts With Used Plastic

Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. The American Chemistry Council is one of these partners.


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      • http://www.acros.com Jacqui

        Hi

        Wow I read about the amazing stories about the new entrepeneurs that have made their bank balance a little prettier. I have an idea and would like to know what process must I under go to melt the plastic colddrink bottles or the plastic containers we buy salads in or a piece of cake you might have bought from the general store? I would like to mould the PETE into another container for reuse. Can anyone out there help me how I do that? Needless to say I cannot afford to have a huge recycling place that must first be washed, then crushed, then what ever the next step is……………..
        Please help, as I would love to be the next entrepeneur to clean up the world.

      • http://leedvancouver.com/ ines

        I will definetly try the soda bottle coin purse. Wish me luck! :)

      • http://vivbizclub.com dinesh

        Definitely some good DIY ideas here. I thought I’d toss in another reason to go the reuse route as opposed to recycling for plastic containers.

        “Only ~6% of all plastic waste in the US actually gets recycled” – I was really quite shocked when I read this stat the other day, but the simple fact is that the vast majority of plastic resins can not be recycled. Bottles or plastic #1 tend to have a bit better recycling rate, but most plastic just doesn’t get recycled and if it does it’s downcycled into plastic lumber of textiles”;

        Reuse or Reduce are definitely the better options here.

      • Pepper

        WOW! What great ideas! The only one of which I’d ever heard was the change purse.

      • Pepper

        Also, I have a good use for them. Once emptied, I refill it with water and freeze it. For someone with a husband who works outside all day, it’s a lifesaver!

      • http://www.reDiscoverCenter.org mary beth

        These are really great. We’ll do a workshop with some of these. Reduce and REUSE :)

      • Heidi

        I have a small retale space and want to have a green store with green products any ideas.

      • http://www.worm-farming.org WC Malone

        What great ideas to recycle plastic bottles! I’m working on the lamp one right now and it’s turning out really nice. Any ways that we can recycle is great.

      • http://www.eco-connectbottle.com Steven Klein

        This is a great reuse for empty plastic containers. It’s a simple patented technology callled the Eco Connect Bottle System. Instead of winding up in landfills, empty plastic beverage containers featuring this simple patented technology begin a new journey as creative educational toys or as building insulation in third world countries or countries that need to rebuild due to a national disaster.

        If water bottles featuring this technology were donated to Haiti, the children could build simple toys and soccer goals from the empties. Then the empties could be utilized as building insulation to help rebuild the nation. Right now, the millions of water bottles that were donated to Haiti are just clogging up their landfills.

      • http://www.thelowcosttraveller.com/ Samantha Minogue

        Love these ideas! I’m gonna try the purse and maybe the geometric lamp shade. Thanks for sharing, its always fantastic to see innovative ideas to limit what “rubbish” goes into landfills. Here in Mauritius, they barely do any sort of recycling. It’s painful to throw things in the bin because you know its going to end up in a landfill on the island. How wrong is that…

      • Clint White

        Just to let people know I’m an unemployed person like alot of others and instead of sitting around waiting on the phone I’ve been picking up all kinds of plastics from bottles to toys alumimun cans and metal my next step is to become a plastic recycling process center it takes capital and equipment any cans and plastic and metal will be greatly excepted I would like to be able to show people where their trash and material go and what it is being used for

      • Bill Sinclair

        Why not just recycle all the plastic. Someone could go around and collect the plastic jugs at the homes. Just like pennies if everyone cashed in their pennies they wouldn’t have to coin anymore pennies.

      • gaby

        hello i would like to know how to make the plastic bottle lampshade where could i find the pettern and instruction to make it and answer please in my e-mail thank you