Introduction: Recycle Plastic Grocery Bags, Wire Hangers and Newspaper Into Loons!

Picture of Recycle Plastic Grocery Bags, Wire Hangers and Newspaper Into Loons!

You can make a loon, or any other wee beastie out of things you would normally throw out! Absolutely no harmful ingredients are used!

Did you know that well over 90% of plastic grocery bags go into landfills each year? You can do your bit to re-use and recycle them. There are the normal ways - i.e. use them again, or give them up all together by using cloth bags. However, here's one off-beat way to use them up and create something completely different! You can use them when making papier-mache loons. Of course you will need a few other rubbish things too....

Don't forget when 1 ton of plastic bags is reused or recycled, the energy equivalent of approxmately 11 barrels of oil are saved! Save the world, make loons...

I would encourage everyone to shop at grocery stores where you can bring your own bags (and maybe get 5 cents back per bag in the process!)

Step 1: Things You Will Need!

Picture of Things You Will Need!

Loons and other critters can be made out of things you would normally throw out, plus a few other things you will have around the house.

You will need
Lots of old newspapers
Lots of old plastic grocery bags (don't you hate these?)
One(or maybe two)nasty wire hangers from the dry cleaners
A few small pieces of cardboard from old boxes, i.e. cereal boxes, cat food boxes, or any old box you could normally recycle.
Flour, salt and water from your kitchen.
Masking tape (you probably have some lurking in the basement!
You can even use the empty roll of tape for strengthening the neck!)
A mixing bowl
(and a few old paints and paint brushes to finish off!)

Not needed - anything harmful or toxic!

Step 2: Take the Nasty Wire Coat Hanger!

Picture of Take the Nasty Wire Coat Hanger!

Take one of those nasty wire coat hangers, that come from the dry cleaners, and twist it into a shape similar to the one in the photograph (cat audience optional!)

Take care with the pointed ends!

Note: 3.5 billion wire coat hangers from dry cleaning establishments are tossed into the landfills each year in the United States alone! They don't break down! However, you can get paper coat hangers at some dry cleaners which are made from recycled paper - go for them! They are just as strong. In the meantime, use the wire ones to make loons!

Step 3: Stuff the Bags!

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Choose one of the bags to be the stuffee! Stuff the other bags inside it. The finished stuffed bag must be a bit moldable, so don't stuff the life out of it!

Step 4: Stuff the Coat Hanger!

Picture of Stuff the Coat Hanger!

When you have enough bags stuffed in the first bag, put your nasty old coat hanger shape into the bag! Push it down and pull the bags around it, so the bottom is flat and you have a sort of rounded loon body. You can insert an oval of thin cardboard at the bottom if you wish. Keep bags in place round the "neck" with a piece of masking tape. See picture two for what it should now look like...(again cat is optional)

Step 5: Creating the Neck

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Take another plastic grocery bag and bind round the exposed part of the coat hanger to form the basis of the neck. Keep the bag in place by using masking tape. You do not have to be neat at this point in the process!

Step 6: Binding the Body With Masking Tape!

Picture of Binding the Body With Masking Tape!

Now you have to cover the body completely with masking tape! Every piece of the plastic grocery bags must be covered. Do not leave any gaps. This is now a controlled form for creating a papier mache critter. You will be able to adjust the shape you want if the bag is not too full. Another reason for covering with masking tape is because the strips of newspaper and paste will stick more effectively to the tape. It is difficult to stick them to the plastic bag.

Using a coloured grocery bag helps as it makes it easy to see if you have covered all of your "form". By the way you can always adjust the shape of your loon when it comes to the papier-mache-ing bit!

Step 7: Making the Flour and Water Paste

Picture of Making the Flour and Water Paste

When you have your basic loon form, prepare a mixture of paste out of flour, water and a spoonful of salt (salt helps prevent your creation from going mouldy after it has dried out).When you mix your paste, take a bowl and put another of those grocery bags in it. This is a good idea, as when you have finished with your paste, you can take the grocery bag and just throw it in the garbage, leaving very little mess in the bowl or anywhere else. Of course if you don't want to waste a grocery bag, just clean up the bowl afterwards and use that bag to help make another loon! Recipe for paste1/2 cup of flour and a large spoonful of salt in the bowl.Add 1 cup of warm water and mix it up with your hands.It should be like thick creamy soup. Add more flour to thicken it or more water to thin it. If you want more paste just double or triple up the ingredients in this ratio.

Step 8: Using Up Your Old Newspapers

Picture of Using Up Your Old Newspapers

Although most places will let you recycle your newspapers with trash pick-ups, you can use them up this way instead - it's still not a waste! So take your old newspapers and start tearing them into thinnish strips. Tearing is better than cutting, as the torn edges will meld and blend better as you apply them to your loon with the paste.

You need to have smaller irregular shapes too!

(By the way I read recently that in 2007 a record 56 % of used paper in the US was recycled. That's 360 pounds for every man, woman and child in the country! However, we need to work on reclaiming that 44% still out there which is being wasted!)

Every ton of paper recycled saves more than 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space

Step 9: Apply the Newspapers to Your Loon Using the Paste!

Picture of Apply the Newspapers to Your Loon Using the Paste!

Take the strips, or pieces, one at a time and paste them onto the loon shape. You can either dangle the strips in the paste and then apply, or you can use a brush or piece of foam to apply the paste to the loon and then put the paper on that way. Overlap the pieces well. Smooth the paper strips or pieces with your hands with paste on your fingers too!

Make sure you cover the entire form, with NO masking tape showing at all! This will be your first coating of papier-mache. You will probably have to apply three or four coats of paper before you are through and after each application you have to let the form dry. This is where the patience comes in, as at this time of year you can't dry outside unless you are somewhere warm (which I am not!) If you strategically dry with a hair drier, you are wasting electricity!

Step 10: The First Layer of Newspaper Has Been Applied!

Picture of The First Layer of Newspaper Has Been Applied!

Here you can see that I have applied the first layer of newspaper all over the loon shape (including the underside, which you can't see) It is very wet. You will need to let this dry before adding another coating of newspaper. I hate this waiting part!

As you build up the extra layers you can "fill in" any lumps, bumps or dips in your form by adding extra layers of newpapers in a selective manner. I will need to build up my loon's head and neck as it is too small at the moment, and I can do this by using the scrap pieces of cardboard strategically affixed with masking tape and then covered over with the newspaper and paste mix. I can even pad the head and neck part out with extra plastic grocery bags and reapply the tape, etc. until I get a shape I am happy with.

Step 11: Revamping the Neck and Head

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As I was not satisfied with the shape of the head and neck, I took another piece of grocery bag (a corner) and fashioned it into a better head and taped it on with the masking tape. I will now have to go over this new part with more of the newspaper papier-mache, but that's o.k. However, I now have a form that I really like. I also strengthened and reinforced the neck by cutting pieces off the empty roll from one of the rolls of masking tape and taping them on. This makes the neck really strong and thicker too.

Step 12: Final Coat of Papier-mache Has Been Applied

Picture of Final Coat of Papier-mache Has Been Applied

I have now applied 4 coats of papier-mache to my loon. Now I have to wait for it to be completely dry before painting. If it were warm and sunny outside, I could dry it quickly using the sun's energy, which is free! As it is still wintery here in NY, I have been placing my wet loon overnight in the cupboard with the gas heating boiler, where the heat from there has been drying the papier-mache nicely. Before you paint, get a piece of sand paper and rub over your loon to smooth out any rough spots, and bumps. Make sure the loon is completely dry before you do this, or you will rip it apart!

Step 13: Paint the Loon White!

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I have put a base coat of white acrylic paint on the top side of my loon. When it's dry I will turn upside down and paint the underside. I would recommend a couple of coats to get a smooth finish and to hide the newsprint that shows through. Even if you are going to paint it red, white and blue, I would recommend a coat of white paint first.....Then put on a coat of black paint over the head and back. You can add the white dots and black lines later.

Step 14: Painting the Loon

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Add the details to your loon. I use cheap acrylic paint. If you make a mistake you can always wait for the paint to dry and re-do. Don't forget loons always have red eyes!

Step 15: The Finished Loon (and Friends)

Picture of The Finished Loon (and Friends)

Here is the finished loon in glorious black and white (and red eye!). However you can do your own thing. You can make a psychdelic bird - you are the artist! You can make anything you like out of those grocery bags if you use this instructable as a guide.

To preserve your critters for the next generation, you can cover them with a clear varnish, which makes them nice and shiny as well. (Do not use one of those spray varnishes, as these are definitely NOT green!) Behold, you have created "art" out of "trash"!

Note: for more ideas on how to recycle plastic bags here's a great website:


BalbirS (author)2014-12-14

we need to make carry bags of approx size 9x12 inches with a handle to replace plastic bags for carrying light items under 2 lbs.

we desperately need your help as these are made by widows here in india to earn a little instead of being dependent on others charity

kutedymples (author)2012-06-05

I don't come here much but I am going to have to start. I ran across a photo for the Loon project on Facebook and I have been sitting here looking at photos and reading comments for the last hour and still didn't read them all. Incredible project though, I have always tried to make things from scraps and what other people would call trash. But there is "Trash" and then there is trash. LOL I know that make no sense but I just got done going through my useable trash and although I had changed my mind about keeping about half of what I had there is a project sitting here right in front of me with the half that I decided to keep. I really love the way you painted the two loons and put them on a sign for your house. I have even used watered down elmers glue (when I am out of varnish) to go over your sign a good time or two it will with stand the weather much better than if you didn't use it. I use that it really helps keep in nice longer and although it is not completely immersible you can wipe it down to keep it clean without having to worry about smearing the paint off too. Ok, sorry for the long comment, I get carried away. Nice project though!

Pixi LaRue (author)2012-01-13

How wonderful! I have wanted to do a large scale paper mache sculpture, just couldn't come up with the "filler" over the armature. Think of the potential mind is racing. Thank you for sharing.

linacrespo (author)2010-04-01

Cat opcional? jjajajjaa lovely!

RoyalPayne (author)2010-02-21

Have you tried a swan? That's what I see from your basic 'loon' shape

aje127 (author)2010-02-21

I would love to make some creatures for my landscape...can this be weatherproofed?

olliesha (author)2009-03-20

i was thinking, you could maybe use a toiler paper or paper towel roll to help with the neck base as well.

stinkymum (author)olliesha2009-03-23

Yes, I think I did actually use a toilet paper roll for this.

dakellymon (author)2008-11-21

I love your Loon, I am going to have to make some of these next summer with the kids at the Library in Northern Wisconsin.

slarmstead (author)2008-10-29

This is one of the coolest recycling/crafting ideas I have ever seen! I'm always interested to see how people turn trash into treasure; it inspires me! I can't wait to try this with my son. If I can get my act together in time perhaps our friends and relations will be receiving papier mache critters for Christmas this year!

IX Smith XI (author)2008-09-23

This is grate for hunting.XD

halolord (author)2008-06-04

wow that is awsome i am going to try it do you have the instructable to make the snake?!!!!!!!

halolord (author)halolord2008-06-05

sweet thanks for the pics lol

stinkymum (author)halolord2008-06-05

Here are a couple of photos showing the snake from different angles - hope this helps and you have fun making your snake.

stinkymum (author)halolord2008-06-04

Get two wire hangers and bend them together round into a spiral like in the photo. Make sure that the spiral will stand up without wobbling. Elongate the top part to make the neck rising up (have the two hangers separate here to make the open mouth) and then cover all over with plastic grocery bags and bind them and cover them completely with masking tape to make the snake shape. Then you can papier-machie over the shape (about 4 layers is good). They you are ready to paint. I used the pointed ends of two wooden skewers to make the teeth and glued them on with a glue gun! The snake did have two polystyrene discs as eyes - but they fell off and got lost!

stinkymum (author)2008-05-27

I love them so much, I painted a new sign for my house! We get the real loons in the winter on Long Island Sound.

Lego man (author)2008-05-23

The duck on step 15 looks like duck-lemon!

duck-lemon (author)Lego man2008-05-26

are you sure? he he nice observation

stinkymum (author)duck-lemon2008-05-26

May be your evil twin!

duck-lemon (author)stinkymum2008-05-26

wait.. oh no... it can't be, freddy is that you, my long lost *goody two shoes* twin who left at the age of three to join the traveling flower aranging crew!
i thought i would never find you again!
lol comments are fun.

Lego man (author)stinkymum2008-05-26

All it needs is a graduation cap!

stinkymum (author)Lego man2008-05-23

That shall now be his name!

Swert (author)2008-05-24

You have a lot of free time on your hands, don't you?

stinkymum (author)Swert2008-05-25

Free time!? I'm much too busy making loons, knitting, painting and taking photographs and travelling to exotic places to have free time! (then of course there's all the housework and shopping that has to be fitted around that!) Best wishes from a very busy Stinkymum!

Sunbanks (author)2008-05-18

Those are all so cool! I really like the zebra and the elephant. Great instructable!

thermoelectric (author)2008-05-10

Cute duckie +1 vote

stinkymum (author)thermoelectric2008-05-10

Thank you!

thermoelectric (author)stinkymum2008-05-10

i just asked her and she loves it

thermoelectric (author)stinkymum2008-05-10

glad to help my mum will like the design to make things out of shes arty

Charles IV (author)2008-05-08

How long does it take the paper-machie to dry?

stinkymum (author)Charles IV2008-05-08

One coat takes overnight in the boiler cupboard (when the heating is on, evening and morning). One coat takes a day in warm sun. If you dry inside without any heating it will take up to three days per coating. I recommend at least 3 coats of the papier mache, before you sand and paint.

StarBlades (author)2008-04-06

i like the duck
+1 vote =)
save the world!

stinkymum (author)StarBlades2008-04-26

The duck was my favourite too, but now I have actually finished the instructable loon, that is my new favourite!

chinasmom2000 (author)2008-04-23

Stinkymum, this is the cutest idea! I love your zebra too - how did you do that one?!?

stinkymum (author)chinasmom20002008-04-23

This was just made from plastic grocery bags, which I scrunched up into the zebra shape (I have a china zebra which looks just like it and I copied the shape from that) I made the front feet, tail and ears out of bits of kitchen roll cardboard. I then covered it all with the masking tape and moulded it into shape until it looked right. Then I papier mached as shown in the instructable. There was no wire hangar in this one.

Glow Gal (author)2008-04-23

Wow!!! This is a really original design! They all look great! I was wondering, how long did it take you to do? (I know that it would depend on the shape that you made...) +1 rating +1 vote

stinkymum (author)Glow Gal2008-04-23

They don't take long to make. The part that takes the longest is the drying out of the papier mache, and having to do at least three coats (say 3 days for that). Then there is the painting, which always takes me a while to get it right. One loon took longer last year, as I left it out all night on the patio table by mistake and in the morning it was lying on the ground with its throat torn out! I had to do major repairs! Obviously the smell of the flour and water paste attracted something hungry. But it was odd that whatever it was, went for its throat! It must have got a nasty shock and a mouthfull of plastic!

kimland (author)2008-04-22

thank you for this lovely instructable! I think this would be a really fun use of old plastic bags and a fun activity for my daughter this summer.

stinkymum (author)kimland2008-04-23

This is a great outdoor activity, although it's not that messy inside either. (The middles of toilet rolls and kitchen towel rolls come in handy too, for strengthening and shaping) I am sure you and your daughter will have fun (and help keep the bags and hangers out of the landfill)!

mollyjulia247 (author)2008-04-09

This was really simple and also cute creative ideas!

FreshPineSent (author)2008-04-07

If I did this, I'd do it in fiberglass.
More danger = more fun

stinkymum (author)FreshPineSent2008-04-07

but is it green?

Sergeant Crayon (author)2008-04-05

I've never thought of using coat hangers (D'oh!) Brilliant Idea!
I think I'll make some ducks, seal 'um and anchor them in the lake by my cabin. The "plastic pink flamingo" of Manitoba! =D

bobise (author)Sergeant Crayon2008-04-07

I'm from wpg mb! Cool!

stinkymum (author)bobise2008-04-07


Sergeant Crayon (author)bobise2008-04-07

WPG is hands down my all-time favorite city, no doubt. I'm not actually from there, unfortunately, I just own a cabin in southern Manitoba. The best aspect of Winnipeg is definitely the -45C temperatures, mind you it does kill off the rabid killer mosquitoes... hmmm...

lorijt (author)2008-04-06

Cool critters. I am going to play with this. I have two things to ad. 1.Since every thing is wet when you are done may I suggest that you sit it to dry on a piece of foil coated with PAM to keep it from sticking. 2. If you ad some Elmers glue or Elmers wood glue to your paper mache mixture your critters will be stronger and more water proof.

stinkymum (author)lorijt2008-04-06

Thanks for the tips. I really like the one about the Elmers glue. I have just finished clearing up a bit of mess from my coffee table, where I foolishly did some pasting. I should have used the foil and PAM and will next time.

stinkymum (author)2008-04-06

Thanks to all the real people who like my loon instructable. To you silly people (or person) please don't make fake votes!

Charles IV (author)2008-04-06

Omg! That's so cool I have to try this.

About This Instructable




Bio: Born in England many years ago, moved to California in 1980, moved to New York in 1993, became a US citizen. Favourite place to visit ... More »
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