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Ways to recycle Milk Bottles

We have a fantastic crafty resource hiding under our very noses - the recycling bin! It's full of all manner of materials and shapes, unloved and frankly getting in the way! All you need is a little ingenuity, and a good pair of scissors... 

I love making things from whatever I have on hand, it's very satisfying, and for me putting in the effort to make these items trumps the hassle of shopping for a brand new something - never mind the monetary savings! There is also the fact that we have very particular and unusual needs around Waki - normal household stuff doesn't often fit and let's face it anything that reduces the level in the recycle bin any is most definitely a good thing.

Of course they can be recycled and melted down again but even items made from recycled plastics still require some brand new material. Instead of demanding that a brand new item be made to purpose, why not get one (or 2 or 3!) more use(s) out of what you have on hand first before sending them onward to be finally recycled?


As of yet I've barely begun to scratch the surface on recycling our own milk bottles, so I guess we'll update this page as we go... Below are some of our projects to give you some recycling ideas;


Recycled Milk Bottle Scoops

plastic milk bottle scoopsplastic milk bottle scoopsMilk bottles have handles, and you can make use of them so easily to make brilliant little plastic scoops! I absolutely love these things! I know, I'm clearly easily pleased right? But they're just so simple! I've made several and use them for scooping our bird seed, potting compost and anything else I feel scooping would make easier. Some bottles can be quite thin so the resulting scoop can be somewhat bendy but still they get the job done. It doesn't have to be specifically a milk bottle, any plastic bottle with a handle will work – disinfectant bottles are made of stronger plastic (though I wouldn't consider anything that's housed chemicals as suitable for food use). Each bottles' shape means that you can get yourself a different size and style of scoop depending on what you need it for, once you make one you'll soon start to see the possibilities in every bottle around you!


The handle position dictates what style of scoop you get...The handle position dictates what style of scoop you get...To make one for yourself just look for where the corner(s) of the milk bottle are in relation to the handle. The area directly below the handle will form the centre belly of the scoop. I made a shallow trowel shaped scoop from a corner-handled milk bottle & a deeper style scoop (from a milk bottle with the handle in the centre of a side panel).

Use a marker pen to draw the shape of the scoop on the bottle around the handle to give yourself a guide to cut along, then cut the scoop away from the bottle with either sharp scissors or a knife – remember to be careful how you hold the bottle whilst you do the cutting! Stay safe now :)

Give the scoop a quick tidy up by snipping off any wonky areas and make sure the handle is free of sharp edges. I left ours unfinished but you could apply a lighter or (covered) iron briefly to melt the sharp edges away. To get rid of any left over pen marks, wipe with soapy water or nail polish remover.


Recycled Milk Bottle Plant tags

Cut strips of plastic for labelling plants (reusable!)Cut strips of plastic for labelling plants (reusable!)This has to be the simplest use for milk bottles there is! Just cut any flat areas of milk bottles into strips, taper one end and label them with permanent marker.

The great thing about the kind of plastic from milk bottles is that even permanent marker can be scrubbed off with soapy water when you want to (or nail polish remover if it's being particularly stubborn) so you can reuse them. Recycle, re-use then recycle again!


Recycled Milk Bottle Filler (or icing!) spreaders

In exactly the same way as the plant tags, simply cut out a flat area from a milk bottle and spread away! The thicker the plastic the sturdier your scraper/spreader will be.


Re-purposed Bottles for food storage (no scissors!)

Put down the scissors and pick up a pen instead...Put down the scissors and pick up a pen instead...Fed up with the frozen pea bag opening and releasing loose peas into the freezer drawer? Even the resealable zip-lock pea bags seem to find a way to pop open in ours! We also find our cupboards awash with bags of lentils, nuts and oats etc not always so well secured, I've lost count of the amount of spilled beans I've had to sweep out of there!


This can hardly even be called a tutorial - thoroughly clean and dry your bottle, label it and fill with your choice of goods! If you use different kinds of milk you can also colour code your storage by the different coloured caps to help you find what you want quicker!


Milk bottles are brilliant for organising your freezer, come in a multitude of sizes and shapes, and it's much easier to dispense frozen veg from bottles over bags - any clumped together veg can be quickly separated by giving the bottle a light shake (with the lid on!).

Outside of the freezer you can use them for storing dried beans, lentils or other such dried goods. Or if you're a crafty type, use them for storing mass beads or buttons! Who'd have thought you could bring such order into to your daily life by doing some recycling? :)


Milk Bottle storage pots

Cut the tops off your bottles, leaving a tab on one side, and attach to cupboard doors for extra storageCut the tops off your bottles, leaving a tab on one side, and attach to cupboard doors for extra storageAs I'm sure your coming to realise, you can make no end of useful storage pots from milk bottles, I really mean it – NO END!


Cut the tops straight off at whatever height you want to make the simplest storage pots: tall ones for storing pencils and brushes or as a pot for cleaning your brushes; short ones for mixing paints or as cheap party dipping bowls, or pack many of them inside a shoe box or drawer to create sectioned storage for all those odds and ends...


We took the storage pots one simple step further and, leaving one side longer as a fixing panel, attached them to the insides of our cupboard doors as additional storage (see above picture of them in place on our bin door). A dab of glue on the rear surface and a tiny screw for good measure is all that is needed. Space for storage is at a premium in a small home like Waki and they fit nicely into the space mostly taken up by the frame itself in our cupboards. They're great for being able to get at all of the little things that usually get lost on the cupboards or drawers. In fact they work so well, I'm in the process of making some for almost every cupboard door we have! Milk in that tea? ;)


Milk Bottle Bird Feeder

Mama Blue Tit on a shop-bought peanut feeder & her youngster dubbed 'Little One' investigating our recycled seed feeder. Mama Blue Tit on a shop-bought peanut feeder & her youngster dubbed 'Little One' investigating our recycled seed feeder. Our milk bottle bird feeder is extremely popular with the locals at base camp. They like the cover it gives them and regulars make full use of it, sitting inside out of the wind or rain whilst munching all the seeds they could desire! It has now become my morning routine to spend time watching the birds from our bedroom window before I get up, better than watching the news any day...


To make a feeder like ours cut a large portion of the corner away leaving at least an inch of the base intact to hold the seeds. Drill or poke holes either side of the corner in the base and push a stick or skewer through to create a perch for the birds to land on. I had help from my nephew Deacon who expertly stripped the leaves from the stick, and helped to decide where we should put it through the bottle! :)

Our birds all use it differently, some land on the perches first before leaning or hopping inside, some make use of the portion of stick inside across the corner (like the little guy pictured above) and some are happy enough to just sit on the plastic edge gazing at what's on offer - make sure that there are no sharp edges so as not to harm birds' feet - a quick touch with an iron can melt it flat. The handle gives a simple way of securing it to a pole or hook.  I also poked a few small drainage holes in the bottom in case of sideways rain, though not so large as to lose any seeds through!

You may notice that our feeders are mounted on a shower rail on the side of the old shipping container next to us, we didn't put it there but love the idea all the same and have made good use of it! The soap dish works great for holding fat balls in winter, and gives the Robin somewhere to stand if he fancies peanuts since he's not as acrobatic as the Blue Tits!

Make sure you keep your feeders clean so as not to encourage the spread of disease between those who come to visit, if the seeds have turned mouldy before the birds have gotten through them dispose of them and replace with fresh feed. Not much chance of mould around here, this summer with all of the hungry families stopping by they're chomping through an entire mug of seed per day!


Not a milk bottle but useful all the same...

Recycle your 2 litre bottles as a handy funnel for pouring grain, beans or seeds into smaller containers. I use one for filling our bird feeders (in combination with our lovely little milk bottle scoop of course!) without spilling seeds everywhere! Simply cut the top off the bottle, remove the lid and pour away!  


Fancy giving any of those a go? We'd love to know what you thought and if you've tried any of these ideas, or share you're own in the comments below!

Sarah is an artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more

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