Fun Crafts With Used Plastic

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Every now and then we like to take a break from the big news headlines and explore the creative world. We know you love crafts, perhaps almost as much as you love recycling.

We tried to think of an abundant resource that you regularly toss, and plastic was the first thing to come to mind. While we highly tout recycling all types of resins, we also love getting our hands dirty and making really cool stuff out of those bags under the sink or those bottles in the fridge.

Geometric Lamp Shade

When we saw Sarah Turner’s trendy lamp made from plastic drink bottles, we had to learn how to make it – without an electrician and a ton of money. So, we did a little digging and found Instructable’s universal lamp shade polygon building kit. Score!

Our inspiration! Sarah Turner’s plastic bottle lamp received an award at the International Contest of Ecological Design. Photo:

Your best option for material is HDPE, or plastic #2. The most common items made from this plastic resin are milk jugs, shampoo bottles, water and soda bottles. The stiffness of your material determines how large your pieces can be – the larger the project, the more sturdy the plastic.

What you’ll need: Tracing design (get it here), HDPE bottles (number of bottles depends on size of your lamp), a raw socket on a cord (try Ikea), CFL bulb (it won’t melt the plastic)

Step #1: Trace your pieces and cut them using scissors or a knife. If you’re really advanced, you can also make a “cookie cutter” out of sheet metal in the shape of the part. Then heat the cutter and use it to stamp out the parts. (Let us know how that works out.)

Step #2: The assembly will be the hardest part. Instructables recommends just fitting the parts together first and experimenting to get the right geometric shape. Be sure that the corners of each cutout fit neatly together. Note that there really isn’t a way to make concave corners, only convex corners.

Step #3: Cut slots into the corners of the pieces so they can neatly fit together. Warning: This can get really frustrating, so don’t give up!


Yep, real honest-to-goodness yarn that you can use for crocheting, weaving…sky’s the limit. We’ll admit that this is the easy part – the real fun comes when you think of creative things to make out of the yarn (we love the plastic bag dress!). The instructions come from a little blog called Gooseflesh. The idea stems from the author’s successful crochet sea creatures on Flickr. We’ll be interested to see what our readers do with their completed balls of yarn.

What you’ll need: Plastic grocery bags, scissors

Step #1: Wash your plastic bags if necessary, and lay flat to dry. Flatten the seams and smooth the wrinkles.

Step #2: Fold the bag lengthwise into a 2.5-3 centimeter-wide strip.

Step #3: Cut off the handles and the bottom seam, making a rectangular-shaped strip of plastic. Cut the strip into vertical pieces, the actual width of each is up to you (Gooseflesh recommends approximately 2 centimeters).

Step #4: Unfold the loops and knot them together into one long piece of yarn. Tighten the knot, resulting in double-stranded yarn (see photos on Gooseflesh for some great examples).

Wedding Accessories

Hey Brides, listen up. It’s only February, but with warmer weather comes wedding season, and that’s just around the corner. The average wedding today rounds out at about $27,800! Save some major dough and make some cool accessories yourself for your big day.

Would you ever know this was a plastic bag? Add a thrifty antique teacup to give your centerpiece a classy touch. Photo: Country Home

Flowers are wedding staples, but they quickly wilt and cost a bundle. So, we scoured the Web for alternatives (that aren’t cheesy). Our favorite find is Country Home’s plastic bag flower centerpieces.

What you’ll need: Colorful plastic bags, double-sided tape, rubber band, scissors, kitschy teacups or antique bowls

Step #1: Start with your bag and scrunch it up lengthwise. Fold strip in half and secure with tape or a rubber band.

Step #2: Using your scissors, cut off 1/2 inch from each end.

Step #3: Fluff the bags from each end to create a peony-like flower shape.

Step #4: Place in the cup or bowl. For extra measure, use double-sided tape to secure the bag to the foundation.

Optional touch: Collect white plastic bags and use paint to create designs and incorporate the colors of your wedding.

A Car (Well, Kind of)

Did we catch your attention yet? While we do think it would be fantastic to be able to construct your own usable automobile with recyclables, that’s just not feasible. But we found the next best thing: a box car. It may sound a little Flintstone-esque, but who doesn’t love making something with the kids, for the kids? We used HowStuffWorks’ Milk Jug Box Car for inspiration.

What you’ll need: Plastic milk jugs (4 or 12), clear plastic wrap, two empty paper towel rolls, cardboard box, aluminum foil, markers, construction paper, craft glue, scissors, tape

Step #1: Cover the boxes with construction paper or decorate them with markers (this is where the kids can really get creative). While the original idea calls for smaller boxes, we love the idea of making a life-sized car with larger storage boxes.

Step #2: Glue three plastic milk jugs together in a triangular shape to make one wheel. You can also use just one jug for each wheel if your family doesn’t consume more than two jugs a week (that would be six weeks of collecting and waiting!).

Step #3: Use the clear plastic wrap for the windshield. Glue two paper towel rolls to each side of the cardboard base and stretch the cling wrap around the empty rolls. Secure with tape or glue if needed.

Step #4: Use aluminum foil for headlights and bumpers.

Dog Leash

A typical plastic carryout bag weighs approximately 4-5 grams and can hold up to 17 pounds of product – nearly 2,000 times its own weight. While plastic grocery bags are no doubt durable, we recommend this project for smaller dogs (under 10 pounds). You will need to watch the 7-minute video to get a clear understanding of how to complete this project, as the weaving can get a bit complicated. While this one will take a bit of work, a leash made from recycled plastic bags is sure to stand out at the dog park.

What you’ll need: About 28 plastic grocery bags (get creative with the colors!), leash swivel (found at any pet store), glue, scissors, metal coat hanger folded to resemble a large needle

Step #1: Cut the bags down the sides to make the bag flat. Cut off the handles.

Step #2: Using a thin layer of glue, attach the bags end to end. Glue about 14 bags together to make the lead. You will need two of these.

Step #4: Fold the completed lead in half at the strongest point and thread through the swivel and tighten into a knot. Hook the leash onto a sturdy foundation to make weaving the knots more manageable. Watch the video for a demonstration of tying the square knots, as it gets a little confusing.

Step #5: Once you have completed the weave, fold the end of the leash to create a handle. Push the folded metal coat hanger through the middle of your weave and thread the opposite end through the weave (similar to threading a needle). Tie the ends in another square knot and push the remaining ends of bag into the leash.

It sounds tricky, but the video makes it a little easier.

Feature image courtesy of Dan4th Nicholas

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  1. I’m stock piling stuff to craft with after I retire. Thank you for the ideas to reuse trash for useful things
    & keeping it out of landfills. There isn’t a lot out there, every ideal helps. I’ll be back looking for more

  2. Pingback: Environmental News Bits»Blog Archive » Fun Crafts With Used Plastic

  3. I’m not a crafter, but I do like that geometric lamp made from plastic bottles, not that I’ll try to make one myself. I can remember, I think it was back in the ’70s (back when macrame was a craze), when it was popular to make decorative piggy banks out of plastic Clorox bottles. {:-)

  4. Pingback: Fun With Used Plastic | The Dakota in the Village

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  6. My school is collecting plastic mik and OJ jugs. There is a local entrepeneur who takes these jugs melts them down and actually manufactures beautiful fencing materials with them. Is that cool or what!

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