Introduction: Upcycled Bottle Sunglasses

You know all those times you or someone you know finished off a 2 liter bottle of soda and had to take care of the remaining bottle? Did that bottle get thrown away or recycled? According to statistics stating that only about 20% of plastic bottles are recycled worldwide, it was more than likely just thrown away. There are a lot more uses to plastic bottles than just being a temporary container for a drink. Whether it be for fun, functional, or fashion purposes, upcycling an old plastic bottle into something new and useful sounds pretty neat. This tutorial will be about transforming that used soda bottle into some awesome new nerdy glasses or shades for your face. :)

*** Just a note, these glasses are (obviously) not prescription glasses and are not suitable to protect the eyes from the sun. This is just a fun and decorative version of a pair of glasses, mainly for aesthetic or goof-off purposes.

Step 1: Get Your Materials

How are you going to make those cool new glasses without anything to make it out of?! These are the materials and tools you'll need:

  • 2-Liter Soda Bottle (Make sure its empty - and CLEAN!)
  • Cardboard
  • Adhesive (Tape, glue, hot glue, whatever you feel will work best.)
  • Scissors and/or an Exacto Knife
  • A Ruler (You will be using millimeters/mm. Those will be the little lines between the centimeters/cm on a ruler. There are 10 mm in 1 cm.)
  • A Writing Utensil (I used a pencil for sketching and an ultra fine point Sharpie for marks on the plastic.)

Step 2: Prepare Your Plastic

In order to use the plastic from the bottle, we're going to have to get the plastic into easy-to-cut sheets. If you didn't already know, trying to cut anything out of a round bottle can be a bit difficult.

I poked a hole in the plastic and cut the bottle along the seams to separate the neck, body, and base of the bottle. In other words, I divided up the bottle from the top, middle, and bottom sections based on the lines that were made when the bottle was formed. This results in three pieces, the top and bottom ones being pieces you can ignore and recycle (unless you find other uses for them, which there are). The middle piece provides a long sheet of plastic that can be cut into whatever you want.

The middle piece tends to curve and roll up when not being held in place, so finding a way to flatten it will help if you absolutely cannot stand having to press it down while working with it. You can try finding a way to safely heat up the plastic to the point where you can use something flat and heavy to press it down long enough for it to hold its shape. The plastic used in these bottles is a PET plastic that shouldn't produce too many fumes, but be smart about what is safe and acceptable and what isn't. I suggest looking up a proper tutorial for this if you choose to go with it, but I chose to deal with the plastic as it was.

Step 3: Design Your Glasses

I did some research on glasses and sunglasses to find different measurements that I could use and this is a summary of what I found:

  • 130-150 mm long total (not including the temple/part that goes over your ears)
  • 50-60 mm long lens
  • 35-55 mm tall lens
  • 8-20 mm wide nose bridge
  • 120-150 mm long temple

I estimated what size glasses I wanted and chose my design. I sketched out the proportions of my glasses and then continued to draw the actual design according to the grid. Feel free to express yourself in whatever shape you want your glasses to be. I just went with a simple and common design where I would have the lens piece and two temple pieces. You can draw out your design to have it all as one piece so you can just bend the temple pieces to go over your ears when finished.

Step 4: Cut Out Your Design

Take your plastic and place it over your design so you can trace what you need with a good writing utensil (I used an ultra fine point Sharpie). After transferring your design onto the plastic, cut along the lines to have your pieces ready for the next step. I ended up having the lens piece and two temple pieces, but you can draw out your design to have it all as one piece.

A helpful trick is to cut out your design in the direction that won't curl up as much, so this would be vertically and not horizontally when looking at a bottle that is standing up.

Step 5: Strengthen Your Glasses

One problem with the plastic (if not already flattened) is that it tends to curve, as said before. This makes it difficult to wear on your face, seeing as how it would all roll up and most likely fall off. In order to prevent this, you need to strengthen your glasses so they will stay straight. I spread out and supported the plastic by cutting out a long piece of cardboard and attaching the cardboard along the top of the glasses (where my sight will not be blocked). I traced the temple pieces and cut out cardboard versions of those. You can replace the plastic temples with the cardboard completely.

Step 6: Attach All Pieces Together

We're getting close to finishing! Now we need to connect all the pieces together so that our glasses are wearable. I took my cardboard temple pieces and peeled the sides facing the inside of the glasses by about 28 mm. After that I folded the split cardboard over the outside and inside of the edge of the glasses and connected the pieces with an adhesive. I pinched the connecting edges so the cardboard would not fan out as much.

Step 7: It Is Complete!

Congratulations! Now you have your very own pair of homemade glasses that you can decorate however you want to. It is a fun and easy project that doesn't need expensive tools or materials to make and it reuses things that end up in landfills all the time. Time to show off those snazzy new shades to your buddies. :)

I'll be honest, I had to do some planning and I made another version of this using a different design and process that... well... it didn't meet my expectations. I'll include a photo to show drafts and have laughs. I think this new version turned out WAY better than the prototype. I hope you had fun making your glasses out of upcycled materials!

Trash to Treasure

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Trash to Treasure