Introduction: Portable Device to Turn Plastic Bottles Into Rope

Picture of Portable Device to Turn Plastic Bottles Into Rope

Plastic PET bottles at the end of their shelf life usually face two options :

  • They are either thrown away at the landfills (which is a threat to the environment) or
  • they are recycled (better option than the landfill).

But there is a third option (far better in my humble opinion) which is reuse. These containers can be reused in a lot of fun and creative ways and I am sure that already has many instructables for that.

One thing that you can make out of a plastic bottle is rope. This kind of rope is quite strong and has heat shrinking properties.

I tried making some contraptions in the past to cut pet bottles to produce string. The results were poor. Either the contraption was bulky and required a table or a vice to secure it in place or the string jammed somewhere during cutting and broke.

After many prototypes I made a device which is simple, efficient and portable. You can have it with you in a backpack, in your car or in your zombie apocalypse survival kit ;-).

Step 1: Gather Some Materials

Picture of Gather Some Materials

For this instructable you need :

  • a rectangular piece of wood
  • a Phillips screwdriver
  • some metallic strapping tape (see above photo)
  • a paper cutter blade
  • 4 wood screws 1.5 cm in length
  • a hacksaw
  • resin paper

Choose a piece of wood that can easily fit in your hand. Mine is 4.5 x 4.5 x 17 cm.

Step 2: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

You will have to make two slits as noted in the above photos. I used a hacksaw for that because it has a slim blade.

Continue, installing the metallic strapping tape pieces and fasten them at the wood with the screws. Their purpose is to hold the blade in place.

Step 3: Let's Make Some Rope!

Picture of Let's Make Some Rope!

Make a pilot cut at the bottom of the bottle and insert it in the device as shown in the picture.

Grab the protruding piece and pull it using your hands or pliers. Continue pulling until all the bottle is consumed.

The rope that comes out has width 0.5 cm. If you want, you can make multiple slits for multiple rope widths.

Step 4: Using Your Rope

Picture of Using Your Rope

You can use your rope in the garden or anywhere else you need to tie things up.

This material shrinks and hardens when heat is applied so you can fasten things extra tight.


chancefour (author)2016-03-17

Does anyone know of an adhesive a person could use to bond the plastic to itself?

chancefour (author)chancefour2016-03-24

Thank you for your suggestions folks, but it seems no one knows of an adhesive I can use to bond the plastic to itself. Think of the ideas we could come up with if we had such an adhesive.

solitary man (author)chancefour2017-09-22

This website offers adhesives and tips to join pop bottle type plastics.
I hope this might be helpful. Have a good day.

Theodorabear (author)chancefour2016-03-24

Fire from a lighter will meltit then you can stick it together.

gunguru (author)chancefour2016-03-21

a torch!:-)

chancefour (author)gunguru2016-03-21

I was thinking of using the thin strips with an antique rope maker to make a larger woven rope. I'd need to connect the ends for longer strands than one bottle might give me. Other than a torch, thank you GunGuru, is there an adhesive I might use to bond the plastic to itself? I've made rope with used plastic bags from the grocery store, but this looks like it may be even stronger, if I am able to connect the strands. Thank you.

FillimenaB (author)chancefour2017-02-22

E6000 you can buy it in USA at Wal-Mart.

kz1 (author)chancefour2016-03-24

No need to glue or connect the ends of the smaller bits to make long bits. Simply overlap the ends of the shorter strands in the weave-just like it's done when using natural fiber ropes-to make the longer strands.

taloskriti (author)chancefour2016-03-21

You could try using two component epoxy glue. It makes very strong bonds. Before applying the glue, scratch the plastic to make it harsh. I don't know whether it will suffice but you could try it and share the results with the instructables community.

tdseb (author)chancefour2017-01-09

A plastic welder may do the trick.

Muchtested (author)chancefour2016-04-21

E6000 will work. I clamp the joined pieces tightly together until dry.

chancefour (author)Muchtested2016-04-21

Mr. Sted, Thank you. i'll have to look into it.

Grandson and I made rope just last week from old blue jeans. It worked beautifully. Hope to do the same with plastic.

Lavoz24 (author)chancefour2016-04-03

You take the strips you've made from the plastic bottles and weave them together. Now I found 2 ways of doing it. Actually, my grandfather used to make string out of plastic bottles then take that string and make rope. He used to use it for almost everything and even had a nice little business on the side selling lengths of it.

1st method,He would braid 3 strands together then take those braided long strands and weave into rope of different lengths and thickness. He would then use a blow dryer and run it along the length while wrapping a single strand to make sure they would stay together, be strong and tight. He would wrap,pass hair dryer and quickly add cold water. Let me tell you, it was the strongest piece of plastic rope I've ever seen. On top of that it would also be loose, very loose. He had perfected his method so well you couldn't tell it was made from bottles.

2nd method, actually this was his first method and this one he didn't like much (as he told me,because it took too much time,he was doing it alone, the method used was harmful and he didn't like getting burned.) Anyway, he would melt down all the same type of plastics together, i.e., soda bottles, detergent, milk,etc. Once melted he took a pieces of 2" x 4" drilled into the middle to hollow them out. He then cut them in half so as to have a top and bottom, he glued them together to make 6' long boards and then poured the hot plastics into them. When cooled he would separate and remove them. He would then use the hair dryer again to heat the now plastic poles and using some type of homemade clamp and pull machine, he would pull on it until it was to the length and diameter he wanted.

I say the first method is best but I just cut my bottles and use the string. If it want to make the knot stronger I heat it up and let cool. All the best.

chancefour (author)Lavoz242016-04-03

Thanks. Very nice. Good information.

The thing I am after is how to make the ends of the plastic string stick to each other while I am weaving them together. When I need to add another string to the braid, how do I get them to become one? Is the only alternative heat? Or is there an adhesive I can use?

But thank you for your information. I'll try to let you know if I solve it some day.

afridave (author)chancefour2016-04-21

try splicing the strands part way up the rope and weaving the new strands into the existing rope....then apply heat....just a thought.

CarolG22 (author)chancefour2016-03-24

There are plastic welders - I once saw them advertised at Harbor Freight, which also has an on-line business too-

tulekah (author)2017-04-10

When braiding start with three different lenths, when you come to the end of one overlap and keep braiding. this way the join is in three different places and gluing etc. is not needed. when your rope is finished trim off the ends to the same length and melt together. Braid three ropes together and get a monster strong cable...UV will eventually degrade the PET check your rope often.

mikdee (author)2016-12-20

You can make leather lace the same way. Start off with a disk shape, cut into it like with the bottle, and pull through steadily. Leather stretches, so an even pull is necessary for an even lace.

LuciaF10 (author)mikdee2017-03-26

I have a leather strap cutter that works a lot like this... I'm not sure where it is now so I can't check how thin or thick it goes. I think you can buy something like this if you don't feel like making the device, but DO feel like making your bottles into strings and ropes!

gunguru (author)2016-03-20

Hey, great ible! Suggestion...... instead of griping about the definition of words .......... why not just roll out some plastic STRING, braid it into a ROPE, and quit with the nit-picking! I think this is a great survival tool considering that plastic bottles are left laying around everywhere.

FillimenaB (author)gunguru2017-02-22

Great ible! Thank you taloskriti for using your valuable time to create and share this ible! Thank you GunGuru, I was hoping someone would say something along those lines. Nit pickers abound on this site. My 2 cents worth.... I have found that there are those that "do", those that learn from the "do'ers" and are thankful and the last group.... Those that don't do either but criticize both.

taloskriti (author)gunguru2016-03-21

Our garbage has reached almost every place on the globe. Bad for the ecosystems, but a treasure for survival situations. Thanks for commenting!

SherylinRM (author)2016-05-12

Night sound like a silly question but...

Ok ,so if I braid three strands together.

And then braids three sets of three [for nine total]. How much weight would a length of about ten feet or just over three meters hold easily?

I need to hold about 200 pounds or 90 KG's

Thanks :)

Mipy (author)SherylinRM2016-09-10

Probably but I would just braid it a bit more just in case, I say this because using 6 bottles I managed to tow a car!

SherylinRM (author)Mipy2016-09-12

Ok so 6 bottles [2 liter sized?] and raided how many times? [strands].

And were how long?

Thanks :)

Mipy (author)SherylinRM2016-09-28

I am not sure how long because it changes depending on the width of you top but if you braid it normally 3strand and then using say 4-5 braiding those then I reckon it could.(if it is something delicate I would make it at least able to carry 10-20 kilograms more than necessary) BTW you should test with a small piece beforehand.

Mipy (author)Mipy2016-09-28

Sorry misunderstanding I used 6-7 bottles and twisted it around the tow bar lots of times, I didn't make rope.

SherylinRM (author)Mipy2016-10-04

Thanks :)

Joseph Joshy (author)2016-06-13

Very nice hack

NickKapushion (author)2016-05-01

Im currently half way done with kaking a differnt version of this. A little ticked that im not the only one with this creation idea. None the less, great work on this peice

Mine design is all done if you want to check it out!

taloskriti (author)NickKapushion2016-05-03

Good job!

afridave (author)2016-04-21

very simple and useful idea......I would imagine that if you weave a braid out of 3 or more strips of plastic it gets rather could also apply heat to this braid to keep it all together...

afridave (author)afridave2016-04-21

and of course bangles, belts, straps etc can be made in the same way...

DaveH42 (author)2016-04-16

hey looks like weed trimmer cord

seaglassbarbara (author)2016-04-15

Thought I would respond to the "Plastic Adhesive" question. Craft stores have all kinds of glue now. There are specialty adhesives for metal to metal, plastic to metal, plastic to plastic or wood blah blah..So many to choose from...I would look in your local craft store (here we have Beverly's and Michaels) and check the glue section. :) I was thinking also, wouldn't the light use of heat bond pieces of plastic together? (Maybe not a heat gun, but a blow dryer or a lighter even, for smaller its not as aggressive)...Just food for thought. :)

wpanic (author)2016-04-14

Just a comment on the reuse concept here; while I agree this is an elegant means to transform a PET bottle from a primary use to a secondary use, let's not fool ourselves into thinking we've saved that this material from eventually reaching a landfill. Someday the resultant cordage will outlive it usefulness and be discarded.

What's worse is I'm guessing recycle centers would reject such cordage making it's landfill destiny inevitable...

itzak (author)2016-04-08

Thanks. Very nice.very handy tool, thanks

ThomasK19 (author)2016-03-19

rope |rōp| noun

a length of strong cord made by twisting together strands of natural fibers such as hemp or artificial fibers such as polypropylene.

This is a string. for a broadness of 3mm you get around 5m from a large PET bottle which is worth 0.15€ deposit. Sounds like a quite expensive solution.

FillimenaB (author)ThomasK192016-03-19

It might be an expensive option for you. Not everybody lives in an area where plastic recycling is available. I live on a boarder island in a rural area where only aluminum, paper and glass recycling is available. If you can't find a use for all the other "stuff" it goes into the landfill. Before criticizing think of all the other places in the world that don't have recycling available, much less require a deposit or buy back such items. I think this is a wonderful idea to reuse those pesky water bottles.

ThomasK19 (author)FillimenaB2016-03-19

Even better would be an engagement for a) introducing a refund and b) avoidance of using one way bottles at all. My only real critique on this i'ble is that it announces a rope and offers a string.

Grimarr (author)ThomasK192016-03-25

Here in the US we used to have a mandatory deposit on bottles and cans. A few states still do, but for the most part the beverage companies lobbied on behalf of their bottlers to do away with the deposit system and replace it with recycling awareness campaigns which are much cheaper to pay for than the deposits. The end result is that while people used to go out of their way to pick up bottles and cans from the side of the road for the deposit, people don't bother as much anymore. So there tends to be a lot more litter.

ThomasK19 (author)Grimarr2016-03-25

Interesting observation. Here in Germany there are quite some people that make (a part of) their living by collecting bottles and returning them.

JesseJamesh2o (author)ThomasK192016-03-30

here they are called fringers.. It is interesting that during WWll, America was a huge three R nation. Victory gardens instead of just grass..? Times don't always change for the better sir.?

ThomasK19 (author)JesseJamesh2o2016-03-30

No, obviously not. Using the desert as dump is as good as using the ocean for the same purpose. There's a big vortex (can't recall the exact size but it's something like France or more) which is completely covered by plastic waste. Making plastic tapes where you can't return those bottles is not bad for sure. But how much tape do you need? And what happens when those stripes get brittle by UV light?

taloskriti (author)ThomasK192016-03-20

Linguistic correction accepted. My apologies, but since English isn't my mother tongue, I find the meaning of the words "rope" and "string" quite subtle. Thanks for teaching me the difference.

JesseJamesh2o (author)taloskriti2016-03-30

pay no mind. Many of us Americans, me included, have a time with just English..??

JesseJamesh2o (author)taloskriti2016-03-30

pay no mind. Many of us Americans, me included, have a time with just English..??

ThomasK19 (author)taloskriti2016-03-20

Interestingly, this is the third i'ble within a week that comes up with (more or less) this title. Seems it has been bred and now the chickens came out xD They are a birds of a feather since they all use rope and produce a string.

JesseJamesh2o (author)ThomasK192016-03-30

read below please. All rope starts out as cord. In the navy the deck hands would weave the cordage into what they needed. Not all of the rope of course, but as needed. Even if you follow the natural laws of the three ( reuse, reduce, recycle) other may not. This is a good way to repurpose. You do bring up a point my good man.?

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