Recycled Plastic Bead Bracelets




About: Geeky artist. MUST. MAKE. STUFF. More stuff at:

Make gorgeous satin or jewel tone beads out of old plastic cups, plastic soda bottles and milk jugs - just about anything thin enough to bend cut and bend. I combined the plastic beads I made with recycled glass beads and a few findings to make beautiful, recycled bracelets. They're fun, easy, and almost free!

Shown: Soda bottle bead bracelets and a tray of beads made from assorted containers.

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Step 1: What You Need for the Beads

Plastic cups, soda bottles, milk containers etc. (Cleaned and dry!)Top to bot

Heat gun

Permanent markers (colors you like)


Metal pliers (preferably with smooth grips)

Something to wrap the beads on like skewers, round toothpicks etc. You only need a couple.

A well ventilated work space.

Step 2: What You Need for the Bracelet

The beads you made

Any additional beads or findings you like

Stretchy string - I like the really heavy size for this project, .75 - 1mm thickness

Jewelry glue (Like E6000)

Step 3: Prepare the Plastic

Cut open a plastic container top to bottom and then into sections as large as possible. You'll want to end up with pieces that are at least 4-8 inches. I usually my containers into 4 sections before I color them.

If there is a curve to your sections, the inside of the curve is the inside of your beads. This is where you'l apply color. If there's no curve, it won't matter which side you color.

Step 4: Color the Plastic

This is fun and really easy.

Use your permanent markers to color the insides of your plastic sections. If there's no inside, just choose a side. You can make color blocks, patterns, stripes - or just scribble. I mostly scribbled with colors I like and the beads cam out great. (Yes, kids can do this part for you. There's really no messing up.)

When you're done coloring, cut the sections into strips. These will be rolled into beads.

Step 5: Cutting the Bead Strips

The shape of the plastic strip determines the shape of the final bead. Straight strips make cylinders. Angled cuts make diamonds and ovals. You can experiment with different cuts to see what you like.

The length of the strip determines the thickness of the final bead. The longer the strip, the thicker the bead.

To start, cut strips at least 4-8 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide. Roll one up with the color on the inside and see how it looks. Measurements are different for different materials. When you have the right size, cut the rest.

1 strip = 1 bead

Step 6: Heat and Roll

I'm sorry I don't have a photo of plastic strips for this step, but it's really easy.

Take one strip at a time and heat it with the heat gun. You can lay it on any nonflammable surface and aim your gun. The strip should be softened, but not floppy or bubbling.

Carefully wrap the soft plastic around the skewer (as shown with the paper strips above). Watch your fingers, it could be hot. (Use pliers if it's too hot for you to work with.) This will be your bead. It will cool as you see it at this point. If you need to adjust the shape or tightness, just reheat the spots you want to work on. You can use pliers to help shape the bead. Hold the rolled strip in place gently with pliers until the plastic cools.

Note: Heat the plastic in a well ventilated area!

Step 7: Make the Bracelet

Cut about a foot of stretchy string. Make sure it's at least 5" bigger than you want the finished bracelet.

String on your new plastic beads, along with whatever other beads, spacers and bead caps you like.

Try it around your wrist for size and add or subtract beads until it's perfect.

Remember: You don't need to leave room for a clasp. This will stretch over your hand.

Then knot the two ends using a surgeon's knot. (Knot instructions/video links are in the comments of my other bracelet instructable:

Put a dot of glue on the knot and when the glue dries, trim the ends.

Step 8: Milk Jug Bead Bracelet

Step 9: Pete's Coffee Plastic Cup Bead Bracelet

I didn't color these since they already had a design.

Experiment with different types of containers and markers.

Have Fun!!

Bracelet Challenge

Runner Up in the
Bracelet Challenge

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Apocalypse Preparedness Contest

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Participated in the
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    11 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I love this! What a great idea. I love making beads, and these are really unique!

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    I saw something where the beads were put in the oven, but I'm not sure about how you would hold them together - or about the fumes. The good news is that you can get a decent crafting heat gun for under $15. I hope this helps!