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Productive recycling: hacks for used plastic bottles

Give your plastic bottles a new lease of life by getting creative with these DIY hacks to transform recycled bottles into practical items that can be useful around the home.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Plastic Bottles

Use your imagination:

  1. Plastic bottles have different sections that can be used for different purposes.

  2. Bases of plastic bottles make great containers.

  3. They are a flexible material that can be used for plastic bottle craft.

Plastic bottles are a part of modern life, you can either recycle them or follow these handy hacks to turn them into useful objects around your home.

  • Cut the top sections off large water bottles and use the bottoms to make storage containers for compact objects such as building blocks or makeup. Do the same for smaller bottles to make pen holders.

  • Cut bottles in half and use the bases as pots for growing herbs or small plants. Make longer planters by laying bottles horizontally (top on) and cutting a rectangular piece out of the mid-section. Put a string through or around each end for a hanging planter.

  • Top or bottom sections of bottles can be placed over pots to protect young plants and to act as mini greenhouses.

  • With one of those sturdy plastic bottles that have a handle built into the side, you can make a small spade. Cut a small hole around the top of the handle and a larger piece from the bottom of the bottle to make the “blade”. You can use this to fill all your new plastic bottle plant pots. 

  • Remove the top and bottom of a bottle and cut one curved surface of the resulting cylinder to make a sheet of plastic that can be used as an emergency mudguard for a bicycle. Attach it with duct tape.

  • Make a hygienic sponge holder using two plastic bottles. Cut one bottle in half and save the bottom section. Cut a third from the bottom of the second bottle, and poke holes in the base (or feet). Fit the shorter section inside the taller one, line up the top edges, and you have a place to store a sponge that allows it to drain and dry out. Moisture will collect in the base of the larger section of the bottle.

  • Seal plastic bags with plastic bottle tops. Trim the top section near the bottle’s “neck” –where you screw on the lid. Thread your plastic bag through the open “mouth” of the bottle, fold the bag over the threaded section, and then screw the lid on over the plastic bag for a secure fastening. 

  • Cut flower shapes out of plastic bottles to string together as screens, mobiles or make decorations.  

To jazz up the appearance of your items, try stickers, glueing on fabric, or decorate with paint that adheres to plastic. 

Light bulb moment

This hack shines a light on the possibilities of recycling. Alfredo Moser, a Brazilian mechanic, developed this idea in response to electricity shortages in Brazil, but this could make a garden shed a brighter place. He put water-filled bottles in his roof, sealed the edges with resin and the result was 40 to 60 watts of free illumination when there is daylight.

The bottom section of a plastic bottle is the ideal size to make a pot for herbs or flowers that can sit on the window sill of a flat.

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What you need:

  • A large, clean plastic bottle

  • 2 capfuls of bleach

  • Waterproof sealant

  • Tools for making a hole

  • Black cap for the bottle (if possible as this is more effective)

How to do it

Fill the bottle with water, add the bleach to prevent algae growth, and screw on the lid. Make a hole in the roof, and poke the bottle through, cap pointing up. Seal the hole with resin to stop leaks. The bottle will glow with refracted sunlight.   

How it works

The water refracts, or “bends” the light, which spreads it around. More technically, the water changes the speed of the light passing through it, as the water is a different density to air.  

Originally published