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Fantastic Frugal Recycling of Plastic Bottles and Jugs

Frugal Parenting (featured column)
by Rachel Keller

Stop! Before you toss those plastic bottles and bury their value forever, recycle them into one of the following unique ideas. You’ll create useful tools and toys for your household and keep plastic out of landfills.

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Make a homemade bird feeder by cutting off a portion of the top of a plastic milk or juice container, leaving the handle in place. Add birdseed and hang your bird feeder on a clothesline or tree branch.

You can also make a bird feeder from a soda bottle.

Cut off the top to make a garbage caddy for the sink. This is especially great if you don't have a garbage disposal.

If you do have a garbage disposal, don’t throw scraps down it. Instead use another garbage caddy to collect egg shells, vegetable, and fruit peelings to add to your compost pile for your garden. (You’ll throw less away while enriching your soil. Just don’t throw meat scraps in your garden or you’ll attract unwanted varmints.)

Poke tiny holes in a milk jug. Fill with water and place in your garden to water the plants.

You can also water your garden by filling a soda bottle with water and placing it upside down in a hole. The water should leak out slowly. To "root water" thirsty plants, cut off the bottom of the bottle and place it upside down so that half of it is above the ground beside the plant. This releases the water exactly where it's needed. Fill the bottle daily.

Make a caddy for tools or painting supplies.

Cut off the bottom and use the top as a funnel.

Cut off the bottom. Keep the lid on top and use it as a scoop.

Use the bottom part as a seed starting container for your garden.

Use another thin bottom as a saucer for your plants.

Need a place to store your toilet brush? Use the bottom of a milk jug.

Organize your dresser drawers, kitchen drawers, shelves, refrigerator, and even basement by using the bottoms of plastic jugs to store small items. Cut the bottoms to appropriate sizes and have fun!

Use the bottoms to protect paper flour bags from bursting.

Organize your picnics by using the bases of milk jugs to keep fruit, cheese, sandwiches, napkins, and spreads separate and dry in your cooler or picnic basket.

Use individual water bottles as ice packs (just don’t fill them totally full or they will burst in your freezer). An added bonus is as the ice defrosts, you’ll have cold water to drink. (Plastic bottles are safe to reuse as long as you wash them out well.)

Concerned that frost may kill your young seedlings? Cut off just the bottom of a milk jug, and use the top part to protect young seedlings from frost.

Can’t find your dustpan or need a second one for the basement? Make your own by cutting off the bottom of a milk jug at an angle.

Use empty milk jugs for storage of beans, grains, nuts, rice, etc.

Fill a jug with beans, rice, sand (or even water) and use as homemade exercise weights.

Use those weights to anchor your basketball hoop, tarp, or any other objects you need weighted down.

Fill various size plastic jars and jugs with beans, rice, or sand, and let your children use them as musical instruments.

Create games with plastic bottles. Use 2-liter bottles as bowling pins. Cut the tops off milk jugs and let your children toss balls or bean bags into them.

Try making a piggy bank with an empty Bleach bottle. (I made one years ago for one of my teaching classes in college. It’s a wonderful, cute craft for children.) Clean and air the bottle very well. The lid of the bottle becomes the “snout.” Use a magic marker to make round nostril holes. Poke a small hole in the bottom of the bottle near the edge and insert a piece of curled pipe cleaner for the tail. Glue four twist toothpaste caps for feet on the side of the bottle which now becomes the bottom. (The caps help your bank to stand and keep it from rolling over.) Cut a small slit on top to drop in your money. Cut pink construction ears and glue to the head.

Create more wonderful crafts with empty plastic milk jugs. Check out the following pages for craft ideas from plastic milk jugs.

Use individual water bottles to cover tent spikes and protect others from tripping over the spikes or hurting themselves. (I recently saw this idea at a horse show. A water bottle covered a spike that could have easily hurt a person or animal.)

One year for a Christmas party, friends lit their driveway with homemade luminaries. Cut off a couple inches from the tops of milk jugs. Fill the bottom with sand and place a candle votive in each one. This is a very attractive way to recycle plastic jugs!

Need more creative suggestions? After listing my ideas, I discovered 35+ Uses for Plastic Milk Jugs. Some of the ideas are the same, but you can also learn how to make a clothespin holder, swimming floaters for kids, a slug watering hole, a handy berry picker, and much more!

Did You Know that according to the Energy Kid’s Page plastics occupy about 25 percent of landfill space? Recycling plastics helps recover the raw material, which can then be used to make new plastic products. Plastics that are incinerated recover chemical energy, which can be used to produce steam and electricity. Landfill plastic’s value is buried forever.

Do you have any other creative uses for plastic jugs and soda bottles? We would love to hear your ideas!

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Copyright © 2007 by Rachel Keller. All rights reserved.

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