Introduction: Green Garbage Grabber, Trash Tongs, Pick Up Tool

Picture of Green Garbage Grabber, Trash Tongs, Pick Up Tool

I call these green garbage grabbers. They are easily made from PVC pipe, recycled banding, duct tape and a rubber band.

I sit on the board of directors for a non-profit called ALPAR (Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling) and help out with various commmunity clean up programs. I came up with the design a few years ago and made several dozen green grabbers for people to use at these events. They make a good project for a Scout Troop or the like.

They work great and can be used to pick up trash and many other objects. The video in step 5 shows me picking up a piece of scrap banding, a helium cylinder and a can of olives.

Follow the instructable steps or open the Word file for more detailed instructions.

Step 1: Materials & Tools Needed

Picture of Materials & Tools Needed

Materials needed:
48" recycled banding strap (1/2" or 5/8")
PVC pipe 36" long (1/2" or 3/4")
PVC elbow (1/2" or 3/4")
Rubber bands
small sheet metal screw

Visit the dumpster of a local lumber yard or pretty much any place that gets stuff on pallets for the banding. To make this instructable I bought a 10 foot piece of 1/2 inch PVC pipe that had a kink for a dime at Home Depot and a bag of 10 PVC elbows for $1.90. You should be able to build at least 3 garbage grabbers from one piece of pipe. Everything else can be scrounged and recycled from around the garage or house.

Tools needed:
Rotary tool with cutoff wheel
Aviation snips or tin snips
Duct tape (it is a tool you know!) I found the roll in the picture at a campground last summer, so it is recycled too.

Use the bigger banding and pipe for a heavy duty model. The one shown in step 5 is a 1/2 inch model.

Step 2: Straighten Banding, Cut PVC Pipe to Length

Picture of Straighten Banding, Cut PVC Pipe to Length

Cut a piece of recycled banding around 48", form a 12" loop on one end and secure it with duct tape.

Cut a 6" piece of PVC pipe for a handle and a 30" piece for the body (longer or shorter depending on user).

Cut out a rectangle near the top of the long pipe (outline shown in photo) using the Dremel tool large enough for the banding to fit through (~3/4 inch wide x 2.5 inches long).

Step 3: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

Put pipe together with the elbow. Align the handle with the hole cut out in step 2. Glue isn't needed, your call.

Feed the banding up through the pipe, out the hole and bend the banding to make a handle as shown in the photos or the drawing in the word file. Snip off excess.

Attach banding handle to the PVC handle with duct tape.

Step 4: Bend Tongs and Cut Grabbing Fingers

Picture of Bend Tongs and Cut Grabbing Fingers

Cut the middle of the banding loop and bend the angles as shown by hand. Cut off excess.

Make a 3/8" cut in the middle of each grabbing finger.

Bend each grabbing finger slightly (1 up, 1 down) --< >--
Do the opposite to the other side so they intermesh.

Put a piece of tape on the fingers before you cut them if you don't want them to be sharp. They don't grab as well, but they're safer.

Screw a short sheet metal screw 2-3 inches below the bottom of the rectangle to secure the rubber band onto. Install rubber band(s) over banding and back onto screw. They'll spring back pretty good just from tension of the banding, but the rubber band return spring really helps.

Tweak bends as needed to make everything work. Not enough return tension, add a rubber band. not springy enough, bend banding as needed. Not grabbing good, bend the fingers as needed.

Review the Word file in step 1 for more tips.

Step 5: Pick Up a Dime, Unsightly Litter, the Can on the Top Shelf, Etc.


Mizu2014 (author)2015-05-28

You are incredible.

Thank you so much. I did last year in my yard and it work perfect.

kimberm2003 (author)2010-12-10

Looks great! I'm going to be trying this with some kids for a school project.

MadBricoleur (author)2010-02-05

Cool! I just made a variation to grasp + kill spiders and other bugs (I am extremely arachniphobic) that's about 2 feet long and uses a one-finger pull trigger. This is a great idea!! Thanks :D (I haven't tried it on any bugs just yet... Just excited that it looks good :D)

fbngraph (author)2007-04-06

To whoever is in charge. DO NOT put (see all steps) if it is not going to work. I have tried 3 times, with no success. This destroys the purpose of being able to tell people how to do things. This seems to be a wonderful idea, but it is too difficult to get the steps *one at a time* on dialup.

emilygraceking (author)fbngraph2010-01-31

 I understand that it is inconvenient for you, but the web has to keep up with the tech out there (like faster internet speeds). Viewing all the steps works very quickly and easily for me and for many others who no longer use dialup. If the internet were still catered to those with slower speeds, we would have webpages stuck in the 90s with no flash, no video, and few images.

thing 2 (author)2009-09-20

Where can I get the materials??? I want to make one or something like it

Toxictom (author)thing 22009-09-20

For the banding material check out the local lumber yard or industrial park in your area. A shipping company might offer you some banding. For the pipe and elbows check any plumbing supply store, hardware store of big box like Lowe's or Home Depot. If you are making a bunch of these for a volunteer cleanup effort let them know and they'll either cut you a deal on the pipe and elbows or donate some for free. I've managed to get free or heavily discounted materials for over 130 of the grabbers. The original ones I made are over 5 years old now and still work great after a tune up with new rubber bands and a pair of pliers. Good luck!

rdwyer (author)2008-04-08

Thanks Tom for this design, excellent tool.
To give you some idea of what it can do in Roxbury in Boston, half a world
away click on the link and check out what we are doing in our neighborhood
organization with this nifty tool. Made 2, but can't get the guy at Home depot
to give me anymore banding (You'll cut your hands up that stuff is dangerous)
will have to head somewhere else to get it, but the pipe cost me 2.08 and the
fittings were 35 cents a piece. Great stuff.
Heres the link

this is a great site, and this tool is incredible.


alvincredible (author)2008-01-27

AWESOME! i was going to make one of these but you got to it first, and yours turned out wayy better than anything i could do! good job! with these, we can save the world!

tomonto (author)2007-04-07

excuse my ignorance, but, wats a banding strap, and where should i get it. any pics would be nice.

Toxictom (author)tomonto2007-04-09

A banding strap is the flat metal strapping that is widely used to secure things to pallets. It is commonly referred to as banding. It comes in a variety of different widths. You can get the ones they cut off pallets from almost any shipping company or warehouse since they typically just toss it in the trash.

sjj (author)2007-04-01

Wow - my buddy and I just finished making a half dozen of these grabbers and they work perfect. Didn't cost me a penny since the materials are very common and considered scrap stuff to start with. I have some 3/8 inch surgical tubing I picked up a year ago at Army Surplus store which works great for the rubber band part - but its so easy to change the rubber band/tubing I have no worry about wearing it out. Heck - if I wear out a grabber I'll have first cleaned up the whole neighborhood. Thank you Toxictom for the wonderful idea and clear and concise instruction. Its a fun project and the grabbers are "VERY" useful - plus - all the materials are considered scrap garbage that live again in the grabber. These grabbers are so much better than the cheap commercal stuff they sell - you could patent them and make a fortune. Good luck and thanks again.

Toxictom (author)sjj2007-04-04

Thank you for the gracious comment. I'm glad you found them so easy to make. Good luck cleaning up your neighborhood.

Marcos (author)2007-03-31

NIcely done. Have you compared it to commercially made trash grabbers? It'd be interesting to see which was more effective. Yours is probably much cheaper! How about a piece of tubing around the handle, to protect the fingers? Also, inner tube pieces, bike or car, might last longer than rubber bands.

Toxictom (author)Marcos2007-04-04

The banding isn't sharp at all on the handle. It's only sharp where it is cut. I recommend wearing gloves when using it to pick up litter cuz you find some really scary stuff alongside the roads.

Marcos (author)Toxictom2007-04-04

It's not that it's sharp, just uncomfortable, especially if used for extended periods. Saves wear and tear on your gloves too. ;-)

cylver (author)2007-04-02

If you have access to a spot-welder, you could make a much better joint than the duct tape. Also, why not throw a couple of sticky rubber feet in the jaws, for extra grip?

Toxictom (author)cylver2007-04-04

The ideal way to make these is to have access to a bander. You use the little crimpers and just make a loop on the end of a piece around 4 foot. When I made a whole bunch a few years back, a local shipper let me use their bander in trade for a few grabbers his employees use to clean up their yard. A friend that works for a pipe distributor donated the PVC pipe. Even if you buy had to buy all the materials you could still make these for under a buck each. I wanted to show how simply they can be made with mostly recycled materials for the instructable. You can't get much simpler than duct tape and a rubber band. There are a number of mods that one could make but the basic design works really good.

hannabunny (author)2007-04-03

What a GREAT idea! This is something that anyone can make, which helps clean up pollution and save your back at the same time.

Ahgoo (author)2007-04-02

These look great. Good job and thanks for sharing. (How about a go-cart for hedgehogs??)

Toxictom (author)Ahgoo2007-04-02

Have one. Took a 1 liter soda bottle, cut a big hole in the side and attached it to an R/C car from Value Village with a couple cable ties. My kids loved crusing the late Miss Prickles (their 1st hedgehog) around. I'll take it apart and make an instructable. Kooshball, our current hedgehog, is ready for an adventure.

PadaDog (author)2007-04-02

Good Design. I agree that it would be good to have something covering handle like tubing. Of course, wearing a pair of gloves would work also. Like that it uses the metal strapping that is hard to recycle. Also, lot cheaper than the commercial ones.

royalestel (author)2007-04-02

There are a couple of dim pictures you could adjust in the beginning steps, but this is a great idea! Thanks for posting!

thollowood (author)2007-04-01

Nicely done.

canida (author)2007-03-31

You could dip the grabbers in liquid latex for a better grip without the sharp edges.

zieak (author)2007-03-31

Excellent project. I'll be making some for our spring cleanup in Petersburg, Alaska!

HamO (author)2007-03-31

Nicely done. Good job. Thanks for sharing.

Toxictom (author)2007-03-31

I've picked up a gallon of milk & paving bricks with the ones made from 5/8" banding. They pick up more than you'd think. Maybe I'll do a test and put another video on YouTube.

Toxictom (author)2007-03-31

This is my first instructable. Feedback is appreciated.

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