Reuse 100% of Plastic Milk Bottle




About: Retired, doing art work now. Great. Have the time and the money to spend doing what I want to do.

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.

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Step 1: 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

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

Step 3: 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.

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.

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

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

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.

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    40 Discussions

    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. :-}

    4 replies

    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)!

    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.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    14 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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...


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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?)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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?


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    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 doshooby

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

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


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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. :)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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......


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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. :)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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.