Introduction: Reuse 100% of Plastic Milk Bottle

Picture of Reuse 100% of Plastic Milk Bottle

In this instructable, the ubiquitous 2 quart milk container is reused to the extent of nearly 100%. After reusing the bottle, it can be recycled by placing in the recycle bin. But why not take advantage of all of it's possibilities, and help in saving the environment not to mention the savings of the money not spent on obtaining the items you can make.

Step 1: Gather Tools Needed and Cut Bottle

Picture of Gather Tools Needed and Cut Bottle

The necessary tools and materials needed to complete this project are gathered for use. The first part made is a pocket organizer, or nerd pack. Useful to keep your pen, marker, pencil in your shirt pocket especially at work. Basic tools are needed and seen in the pictures. Cut bottle into pieces as shown.

Step 2: Remove Label From Plastic

Picture of Remove Label From Plastic

Tear off label, then clean remaining adhesive with wd-40.

Step 3: Form Plastic for Pen/pencil Holders

Picture of Form Plastic for Pen/pencil Holders

To form the plastic in a circular holder, the plastic is heated over the burner flame. By experimentation, the right amount of time and heat can be found to be able to put a permanent set into the plastic. I heated for a few seconds then used one of the dowels as a form and pressed the plastic piece over it with the wood pieces shown. Didn't burn myself either! BE CAREFUL!

Step 4: Drill Holes in Plastic for "sewing" Together.

Picture of Drill Holes in Plastic for "sewing" Together.

Using the needle nose pliers, and the nail shown, the nail is heated quite hot in the burner flame and then pushed through two layers of plastic together. This way the holes are in alignment, and can be threaded with the needel.

Step 5: First Project Completed.

Picture of First Project Completed.

Using the thread and needle, join the two pre-drilled pieces together. I made one other separate piece, but the pack can all be molded in one piece for the top if desired.

Step 6: Make Use of the Remaining Pieces

Picture of Make Use of the Remaining Pieces

To use all of the bottle, I have made a funnel, a scoop, a small parts container (which can also be used for paint, water for pets, ingredient holder when cooking, etc. and a glue mixing container. The remaining piece is cut into strips to be used as labels for seed starting, or in the garden itself.

Step 7: Use Remaining Pieces

Picture of Use Remaining Pieces

For this step, to reuse all of the small pieces, I needed some electrical wire routers or holders, so formed small pieces by the heat method, drilled holes in each end and now have a few of those routers for my other project.


plzspoilme25 (author)2009-01-27

do u think trying to heat sections of several milk jugs to make very large pieces of plastic,(my main use is greenhouse things). would work? oh yeah what about any toxins given off during heating???? which sometime u may have to risk a little environmentally unfriendly practice to create a very large environmentally friendly project. :-}

Yes that would work. Search HDPE recycling. People use a griddle or oven to make sheets and blocks.

John Sphar (author)plzspoilme25 2010-08-12

I was at science conference a couple years back and heard a Santa Clara University professor give a talk on using recycled (stredded) polyethylene (milk bottles) to mold other products (happened to be a tie strap for concrete forms used in building construction). I am sure that there is lots of information on line to help with a project. The important thing about molding is to be able to control the process precisely. That means that the properties of the plastics cannot be always changing, which could happen from recycled plastic where milk bottles (polyethylene) are mixed with a few soda bottles (PET) by accident. So manufacturers buy "virgin'" polymers (plastics) or get a known source of recycled plastics, like milk bottles (without the caps)!

spark master (author)John Sphar2011-04-19

make a small vacuum casting gizmo and use old bottles for source , just cut top and bottom off then stretch ou onto toothed frame and heat. You would need to experiment since not all plastics will remelt nicely or usefully as others point out. I have left milk jugs out in sun for over a year and they hold up quite nicely.years ago i remelted jug soap bottles and then "welded' them, except they always smell.

I made knife sheaths for carving tools with them but choose softer plastics as they will not dull blades so much if at all.

very nice instructable to spur on thoughts


My experience is that this kind of plastic only lasts a few months in direct sunlight. So I think you would be wasting your time. Cman.

shooby (author)2009-02-01

What good is it to re-use these containers (which are relatively non-energy intensive to recycle), if you are going to use things like: A gas stove WD-40 (a petroleum product, and pollutant) A sharpie (contains alcohol, which is energy intensive to produce) Wood pieces strictly to mold the plastic Power tools Other than the plant pot labels (for which a stick, split and with a label inserted, could be used instead), paper or cardboard could be used as an alternative for each item here. Yes, we can all find somewhat useful 're-uses' for our disposable items, but for every unit of this material that's tied up in our homes, another unit must be produced from resources extracted from the environment. If you want to do the environment a favor, send your useful waste to the recycling plants. If you want to cause more harm than good, consume a disproportionate amount of energy and resources in order to make a few unessential items.

mg0930mg (author)shooby2009-03-08

More than half o the stuff you think is recycled isn't. Did you know recycling centers throw bottles with caps out rather than to waste time and energy unscrewing thousands of lids off...

irrilia (author)mg0930mg2009-04-23

They sure do!!! Our small town (about 190 people) recycles, we have huge dumpsters for each type of item, plastic, paper, glass, cardboard, aluminum and I take the lids off anything I take to the bins otherwise they will end up in the landfill anyway. A shame. (I personally do not understand why a plastic bottle cap/lid cannot be reused when the plastic item it sealed can be?)

shooby (author)irrilia2009-04-23

mg0930mg: Indeed, not an ideal situation. It is generally known however, and published in recycling guideline publications, that the caps should be removed prior to disposal. Recycling must be efficient, or it won't be economical. bedeboop: It's easy for us to think of all plastics as being the same, because of that ambiguous umbrella term for them, but the truth is different. Think about the remarkable differences in materiality of bottle caps compared to the bottles themselves. One is transparent, flexible, has a low boiling point, is less dense than water. The caps however, are far more brittle, more resistant to heat, less malleable, and float in water. Plastics with such a high degree of variation, chemically speaking, require a completely different recycling process. It happens that the material used to make the bottles themselves is more efficiently recycled, yields a higher quality product when recycled, and per bottle is more massive than the cap. So given the choice of recycling either the bottle or the cap, the bottle makes far more sense. Total nonsense of course, they should both be recycled. More importantly, they shouldn't be produced in the first place. How many plastic bottles have you used this year?

With milk jugs though, I believe the jug and cap are the same material, HDPE #2 plastic. The issue though is theyre a different color so if you just melt it all down its hard to recycle them into nice white pellets for resale. If you melt them yourself though you can get the nice marbled look you see in some ibles.

doo da do (author)shooby2011-10-28

You could use them for checkers, or other games. What about a wind chime that does not chime, just a passing thought.

irrilia (author)shooby2009-04-23

I agree, it should all be recycled or not made. I am not sure how many I have used but I know since the town started recycling I have been amazed at just how much I, one person, use!!! (Live by myself). While wondering about the caps I have thought it might be due to the difference in the materials between the cap and the bottle but I wasn't sure. Not doing them seems pretty ridiculous to me. I'm not in charge tho. :)

shooby (author)irrilia2009-04-23

Nor are we, as a society, willing to finance it yet :) Meanwhile, there is a simple, obvious way to solve the problem. It's becoming increasingly clear that if we wish to minimize waste, we need to use less, and what we do use must be used efficiently. The one time use of a bottle is, relative to the energy that goes into its production, inefficient. More energy goes into the production of a 12oz coke bottle, than the energy in the liquid it contains, and that's coke, i.e. sugar water. I've used the same plastic bottle since November, and am in great health. It also means that I spent US $1.25 in several months on bottled drinks. Compare that to someone who uses one per day for 6 months, and you're looking at savings of about $225. It's worth it to use less, from an economics point of view. There are direct financial benefits, as well as indirect benefits due to reduced consumption of natural resources. We need to be citizens, not consumers.

labricole (author)shooby2010-05-20

I like very much what you say  about being a citizen and not a consumer.
Consumer come from consumare in latin which mean to destroy  or like a candle.
Have you seen the Century of self? Because our needs have manipulated for so long that we forget to question ourself and act like we are in charge because a society exist only because we make it exist.
We have to structure groups and start a re-evolution of the meaning of life.
The always bigger has no reason to kill the joy of always happier but it's like that every time we make that choice.  The exemple as a way of life is better than long writting. Every time you don't buy, you break the habit. Exchange with someone else and than you create something more valuable, human connextion.
Have a good day and keep the revolution going.

irrilia (author)shooby2009-04-24

I reuse the bottles too. Have too. It does save a lot of money. I don't buy bottled water too often, the water here tastes wonderful. I only buy if I am somewhere and have an uncontrollable desire for water and have to have it now. ;) That is how I got the bottle I now have. I am trying to find more ways to use things in my home more than once too. Only hoping it helps a little. One person but if everyone did......

mg0930mg (author)irrilia2009-04-24

Yes, as shooby as said, I do believe it's just the difference in materials. That's why we throw the caps out, and recycle the bottles. I usually reuse the caps as in this instructable

irrilia (author)mg0930mg2009-04-25

Those are great!! What a wonderful idea. :) I love them.

mg0930mg (author)irrilia2009-04-25

Yes, I'm sure you could find many things to do with the caps. Google it.

lalalaux (author)shooby2010-06-09

I agree with most of what you said, but I feel like I have to point out that alcohol does not have to be energy intensive to produce. Check out this book by David Blume, as well as Paul Stamets work with fungi. :)

noelle_tan (author)shooby2009-02-08

I believe the author already possessed a Sharpie, a gas stove, power tools, and such, so he DIDN'T go out of his way to buy ANOTHER one so that "another unit" had to "be produced from resources extracted from the environment" for the sole reason of his purchase. And should I need to remind you that recycling also consumes energy? Doesn't necessarily mean consuming energy is BAD, it's the waste produced that's the problem.

rick.leasure (author)noelle_tan2009-02-08

That was my point, too, noelle_tan. Some people are too quick to judge and condemn than to offer constructive ideas. Sort of like saying, "If I push your ideas down, it makes me look good."

shooby (author)rick.leasure2009-04-23

Or, this: "If I push your ideas, it results in better ideas" Do you really discourage criticism of ideas. How do you think we progress, by individual, independent Eureka moments? hat Tell anyone involved in design, that criticism is for self improvement, and you'll be laughed at. Criticism results in improvement. Instead of having their feelings hurt, the author should take note of criticism, and produce a design that is slightly less worthless.

THYMETOCHAT (author)shooby2010-04-11

There's constructive criticism and there's ridicule.  Those Eureka moments you mention frequently happen in MY world when I use part of somebody else's idea and come up with my own take on it.   Each of us adding to the concept to create the best end product.

I appreciate the enthusiasm and concern for the environment of the originator of this instructable and appreciate the fact that he's looking at and spending time reusing throw-aways instead of automatically adding them to the landfill. 

Comments are useful when they improve upon the original idea!   Today's idea may not be perfect, but it can spark tomorrow's solution!  

Creativeman (author)noelle_tan2009-02-08

Thanks noelle: There are always those miscreants who can't or won't DO anything. As witnessed by some of these critiques...they are entitled to their opinion...look at their records,though and you find vast voids of limited logic. Cman

rick.leasure (author)shooby2009-02-08

Of course you could do the same with other things, but that wasn't the point. The point was that he used this item to do these things. There's no need to cop an attitude. If you don't like the instructable, just let it be and find one you like. Some of us enjoy reading about other people's ideas to either use ourselves or to be inspired with other ideas.

Creativeman (author)rick.leasure2009-02-08

Thanks rick. You're right about the nothings should say nothing! Cman.

velacreations (author)shooby2009-02-02

I completely agree. Reusing should be very low energy input. These types of bottles have tons of uses. We have a few uses here without any additional energy input:
Quick And Easy Uses for Bottles

PaganRaven (author)2012-12-16

Great 'Ible! Here's a tip on getting the labels off of milk containers without using the WD-40. Fill the container with the hottest water you can get from your kitchen tap. Don't get the label itself wet..just fill the jug. Let it sit for a minute or two and the label will peel off in one piece. (heats the glue up, from the inside) Normally if you go slow enough, the label will take the glue with it, but if you end up with spots of the glue on the jug..just take a piece of tape (sticky side to glue) and pull it off. Then pour the water out and you're done!

Also to get those spots, acetone dissolves a whole lot of glue really well. 12-15 dollars for a gallon and that will last you a really long time if used that way.

gtoal (author)2012-05-21

The Filabot is a much more sensible way to reuse plastic - there's a limit to how many pen holders you can use.   With a 3D printer you can make things that are actually useful.

nathanaloysiusbash (author)gtoal2015-02-10

@gtoal-I couldnt seem to find the instructable on how to make a filabot, then I realized, Oh there isnt one. I guess I will just buy one for 600-1000 dollars so I can 3d print a pencil holder when I need one.

AmyInNH (author)gtoal2014-05-10

Where's the milk jug pelletizer for use in the FilaBot?

antioch (author)gtoal2013-12-26

Amazing how people like you love to judge and rate usefulness.
Here's 2 actually useful reactions you might want to pick if you manage to roll back time:

1.) Show how to recycle milk jugs with your 3d printer and then show what actually useful things look like in your opinion (just for laughs).

2.) Do not comment at all.

schreibwy (author)2011-06-12

I am also going to make the cable guides for my office computer.

schreibwy (author)2011-06-12

I'm stealing your idea to make shell holders for my 45-70 cartridges that are paper patched hence they are fragile. Thanks for the idea.

zylascope (author)2010-04-12

I live in a small town (400 ppl) where the HDPE milk-bottles out-number the humans. I'm playing with the idea of making a business out of recycling them. Since they are in such abundance, no energy to get em, why not do some process on them and sell the result at a profit? The more ideas you generate - the more chance we have of cleaning them up. Could we make bricks from shredded milk bottles, to build houses? 

miked2001 (author)2009-01-27

Love the conduit holders. A heat gun would be safer than an open flame. Less chance of starting a fire and easier to direct the heat. Remember plastic is petroleum and does not go out easily,

Creativeman (author)miked20012009-01-27

Thanks, guess I was taking a walk on the wild side!. Cman

plzspoilme25 (author)2009-01-27

love the electrical wire routers or holders i would have never thought of

chuckr44 (author)2009-01-19

I use the top half of milk cartons as a funnel, AND milk cartons have a handle, most juice bottles do not. I use the funnels for gas for my mower, oil for my car, for putting used oil back into a bottle for recycling, etc.

About This Instructable




Bio: Retired, doing art work now. Great. Have the time and the money to spend doing what I want to do.
More by Creativeman:How to Make Fairy Doors/Fairylands and Open Up a Whole New World!SKULL STAND(S) FOR BUDDING ARTISTSThe Art Of Reclaiming Oak Flooring:Upcycling Shop Workstand
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