5 Ways to Recycle Single-Use Plastic (Aside from Storage)

Photo by Zuzanna Szczepańska on Unsplash

Why Recycle Single-Use Plastic?

Have you heard of the dismal percentages of recycling? Unfortunately, only about 9% of plastic is recycled on a large scale. That's a meager number if you think about how much single-use plastic problem accumulates in our landfill systems and seeps into the environment.

According to recent reports, the amount of plastic waste that enter the oceans alone is jarring. At least 8.8 million metric tons: the same as dumping a garbage truck full of plastic trash every minute.

If plastic isn't trashed, it won't enter waste systems. Instead, it can serve a better purpose one way or another, instead of releasing methane in a landfill.

We can do our small part in fulfilling the 5 R's in sustainability. The two familiar Rs stands for reusing and recycling - and with single-use plastic, it's so important to try and do that as much as possible. But it can be a bore just making storage containers from plastic bottles.

Here are some easy reusing and recycling tips you can try with your family and with community members. These strategies can make something out of plastic waste and hopefully prevent buying new items from the store.

Bottle Bricks

Plastic bottles are so versatile! Craft ideas, storage, you name it, bottles have excellent reusability. But if you've just about had enough of bottle containers, you can repurpose them into bottle bricks.

Bottle bricks are a great solution to use most plastic wrappers that aren't accepted into the typical recycling stream. Plastic bottles filled with dense material (usually compacted sand, plastics, or other non-organic material) can be literally turned into construction brick material to build structures.

Aside from keeping all plastic litter tightly secure in these bricks, this is a fun project for friends and community members - make enough of these bottle bricks, and you can put together a garden wall, bench, or just about anything you want!

Watering Containers

This is probably the easiest way to repurpose a plastic jug or bottle. Simply turn them into watering containers and stash one in different parts of your garden! You can even create this slow-drip water container and plant them onto your patch to keep your plants hydrated even while you're away somewhere.

Plastic Rope

Making plastic rope is another valuable way to recycle single-use plastic bags instead of throwing them directly into the trash bin.

This youtube video explains the step-by-step of how to create a sturdy rope from a bread bag or any single-use plastic bag or packaging. First cut them into strips, then tie two strips on top of each other. Next, twist and interconnect each strip until you form a braided rope. Lengthen the rope as much as you want by laying over new strips and doing the twisting step again.


Unlike the other two projects, making an ottoman would require a bit more crafty hands, but it's still an easy way to reuse plastic bottles. For instance, if you have 2-liter soda bottles in your bin weekly, why not use them for this? Maybe most of your milk gallons just end up being thrown away; they could be useful for this project as well.

  • Once you have a couple of bottles cleaned, pack them together to create a circular shape. Use some tape to secure the bottles tightly.
  • Then, cover the top and bottom bases with circular cardboard pieces (also repurposed!) that are measured to the diameter of the plastic bottle bunch. Secure using some more tape.
  • You can add a bit of foam (if you have old pillows, those will do) on the top portion of the ottoman to make the shape more flattering.
  • The last part is to cover the entire piece with fabric or knitting to make it aesthetically pleasing.

Plastic coasters

Plastic bottle caps can be repurposed into coasters, key rings, even fancy jewelry, whichever has the best use for you. This is an easy project, but do keep in mind to take extra precautions, especially if you have kids helping you - since you'll be using an iron or panini press for this.

You'll be needing some wax paper and protective gloves. Just take any old plastic bottle caps, and arrange them into whatever color combination you like. Place the caps top down to keep the air out. Make sure you have Teflon baking sheets or wax paper to protect the surface from the melted plastic caps. So, once you've arranged the caps, heat them using the iron, or if you have the panini press just like in this video, you can flatten the caps inside the press.

The melted plastic can be used as-is, with a bit of sanding to make the finish finer. Or if you want to decorate it with repurposed textiles or other craft materials, like twine, you can do that as well.

The Takeaway

Recycling is a big part of keeping used resources from becoming trash. Use old plastic in new ways - make a day of it and plan a plastic recycling project with your friends and family! With options like these for plastic bottles and single-use plastic bags, we can create some cool plastic items that will be durable for years.

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