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




About: 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, besides London England, is Lake Winnipesaukkee in New Hampshire, home o...

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!

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!

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!

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!

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

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!

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

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

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!

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!

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

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

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!

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

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)

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:

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    59 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    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


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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

    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    9 years ago on Step 6

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


    9 years ago on Introduction

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


    10 years ago on Step 11

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

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 11

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


    10 years ago on Step 14

    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.


    10 years ago on Step 15

    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!


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

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

    giant ice 005.jpggiant ice 004.jpg

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    loon sign.jpg

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    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.