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plastic recycling

Step by step recycling plastic projects

Recycled milk bottle flower heart
recycled milk bottle flower heart

Create a stunning recycled flower heart with milk bottles!

Milk Bottle Gift Box
milk bottle gift box

Turn an old plastic milk bottle into a beautifully functional upcycled gift box for a special gift!

Milk Bottle Easter Basket
recycled milk bottle easter basket

Recycle an old milk bottle and create this beautiful Easter basket, a great handmade gift for all ages!

Milk Bottle Floating Clock
recycled milk bottle clock

With just a few old bottles and some craft materials, we were able to craft this beautiful recycled plastic milk bottle floating clock!

Upcycled Bubblewrap Cushions
recycled cushion

These comfortable upcycled cushions were created using an old cloth shopping bag and recycled bubblewrap!

Milk Bottle Clock
recycled plastic milk bottle clock

This upcycled clock was made using recycled plastic milk bottles - resulting in less junk going in the bin and a beautiful handmade gift that really does make a difference!

Hanging garden
hanging garden

What a great way to recycle used plastic bottles! We created an upcycled hanging herb garden by recycling a 5l plastic PET bottle.

Recycling Milk Bottles

I don't know about you but I use milk throughout the day – being a coffee addict tends to result in that! And yet, not one of the numerous times that I use the milk, do I give a second's notice to all of the processes that go into the deliciously perfect accompaniment to cereal, coffee, cooking...

It is very important to think about those processes as they all gradually add up to worsen pollution and extend the carbon footprint we are imprinting on our earth. Being more aware of what our household products are made up of and are contained within is essential to being an effective recycler. And choosing to be an effective recycler now is vital as it sets the course for future recyclers.

The world's annual consumption of plastic materials, according to Waste Online, has increased from around 5 million tonnes in the 1950s to nearly 100 million tonnes today. Meaning that we use 20 times as much plastic today than we did 50 years ago!! And unfortunately, plastic recycling still lags a long way behind the recycling of paper, glass and metals.

Most milk bottles are made of natural high density polyethylene (HDPE) resin. This forms the plastic referred to as plastic number 2. The bad news is that this plastic, as all plastics, does not break down like most materials, i.e. due to decomposing bacteria. Scientists believe plastics may gradually disintegrate due to ultra violet rays from the sun however the process is exactly that – very gradual.

The good news is that HDPE is considered the most widely recycled plastic type. The recycling of plastic has, luckily, become more common and it is increasingly becoming convenient enough for average coffee-addicted Joes and Janes like you and me to be active contributors to saving the planet!

But what if you don't want to go the usual route? Re-using recyclable materials and creating something of your own is a special feeling. It can also be an awesome way to spend time socializing. Not only does it raise awareness around the (often parasitic) relationship we share with our earth but it also encourages individuals to kick start and share their creative sides with one another. And of course, children love to create crafts with what adults may consider to be the most banal things!

We find that Douglasdale milk bottles are ideal for recycling. Some dairy brands use milk bottles that have sticky labels that are hard to remove, and others use bottles that have ridges on the side. For most upcycling crafts, you need a large flat section of plastic, and this is where Douglasdale milk bottles are ideal - the labels are easy to remove with the snip of a scissors and the bottles have a large flat central section, ideal for all sorts of crafts!

The possibilities of repurposing and 'upcycling' plastic milk bottles (as well as their caps) are never ending! You can make bags, bird feeders, pots for seedlings, clocks, wall decorations, mobiles… It only takes a pinch of imagination to think of a zillion different fun crafts to create! And why not have a cup of coffee while you do it…..?

Recycling Vinyl

Records aren’t just those things you hear your dad reminiscing about. Although they are no longer as popular as they once were, LPs or “vinyls” still have their uses. Interestingly, records are making somewhat of a comeback. They faded in popularity in the 80s and 90s with the advent of digital music but in the twenty-first century their popularity has increased and production is on the up. The reasons vary. The popularity of DJs is certainly one of them and many ‘alternative’ music genres such as indie-rock have taken to releasing their music on records. Also, a large majority of audiophiles still prefer what they perceive as the superior sound of vinyl over CDs. This increase in popularity and therefore production is not necessarily a good thing. The production and distribution of records (as well as CDs for that matter) add to the already large carbon footprint our society has stamped on the planet. In this article, we will consider the many ways one can re-use and re-purpose old records that have already been made but can no longer serve their original purpose. We will also examine some of the detrimental effects the production of records has on our beautiful (and increasingly fragile) planet.

There are several environmental concerns surrounding records. Firstly, records can contain several or all of these potentially destructive components; shellac, manila paper, powdered slate, wax lubricant, aluminium, glass, nitro-cellulose lacquer, nickel and of course vinyl (which is in fact a PVC plastic mix). Vinyl is known to be a ‘bad recycling plastic’ as it contains lead and dioxin. In addition, a colouring material, carbon black, is often used to blacken the transparent vinyl to create the slick and cool look of the record we are familiar with. Many records (the 7-inch kind) are also composed of polystyrene. Vinyl records can contain up to 30% recycled vinyl but this has been and is not a popular choice by record manufacturers as it does affect the audio quality of the record.

As you probably guessed, records are not biodegradable and so they either need to be incinerated or crushed in order to ‘dispose’ of them. Of course, incineration creates both harmful ashes and gaseous emissions. Crushing can also release deadly toxins. The production of the records themselves creates carbon emissions and the transport required to distribute the records also impacts global warming and the negative affect it has on our earth. The energy required to produce one record is equal to that of one CD; all of the little actions and processes necessary to manufacture and distribute one record impacts greatly on our environmental stability and resources.

In our society of ever-growing environmental awareness, records have been focused upon as one of the handy resources abundant around us that are perfect for recycling and re-purposing. There are still millions of old vinyl records in circulation. Not only can we feel better about recycling an otherwise harmful waste product, the project of re-using records requires innovation and a thirst for fun! You are saving money re-using the record and your environmntentally-friendly project can be an awesome way for the family to spend time together, for the kids to stay busy or even for the teen a create an impressive school project – and thereby bring an important societal issue to the fore.

Without changing the shape and form of them, vinyl records can be used as cake plates, platters, clocks, paddle-balls, wall art and many other artistic creations such as handbags. Luckily, vinyl can be melted and reformed over and over and so you can also re-purpose them as fruit bowels, ashtrays, vases, bottles, etc. One can also cut the records to make necklaces, earrings, handbags, purses and silhouettes. At the moment, projects are underway to try and re-use them as garden hosing, pipes and traffic cones. The possibilities are endless once we put our minds towards recycling yesterday’s goods.

The records your dad treasured can become your treasures of today!

Types of Plastic

Beware: There are many different types of plastic available today and they are all made from building blocks called hydrocarbons.

Hydrocarbons come from oil and natural gas, and this is a non-renewable resource. These building blocks are bonded into chains called polymers, or plastic resin. The combination of different small molecules in the building blocks allows the resin to be formed into a flexible or durable or resistant plastic all depending on the end use requirement.

There are 6 main different types of resin for plastics. You can easily tell what type of plastic something is made from - simply look for the triangle arrow symbol and take note of the number inside the triangle. We've listed the various types of plastic below with a brief description of each:

Type 1 - PET / PETE
Polyethylene terephthalate

PET is a tough polymer which is used for cool drink bottles, water bottles, detergent bottles and cleaning agent bottles. The downside is that this plastic leaches Antimony trioxide.

And the longer the liquid sits in the bottle the greater the concentration of antimony is released which has shown to cause respiratory and skin irritations, as well as menstrual problems and miscarriage, and leads to slower development in the first 12 months of a baby's life. Plastics with the number 1 or 2 are intended for single use only.

Recycled uses: Polyester fibres, thermoformed sheet, strapping, and soft drink bottles.

Type 2 - HDPE
High Density Polyethylene

Used in opaque milk, water, and juice containers, paraffin, bleaches, fabric softeners, motor oils, bleach, detergent and shampoo bottles, garbage bags, yogurt and margarine tubs, cereal box liners, as well as buckets, basins and plastic crates.

Recycled uses: Bottles, grocery bags, recycling bins, agricultural pipe, base cups, car stops, playground equipment, and plastic lumber.

Type 3 - PVC
Polyvinyl chloride

PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is slightly more flexible, puncture resistant and clinging. Vinyl is used in toys, clear food and non food packaging: shampoo bottles, cooking oil, shower curtains, medical tubing and other construction products, like piping.

This is however one of the more hazardous materials created by man as it leaches numerous hazardous chemicals which are linked to asthma and allergies. PVC is usually what is responsible for what is termed "the new car smell."

Recycled uses: Pipe, fencing, and non-food bottles

Type 4 - LDPE
Low density polyethylene

LDPE, or low density polyethylene, is what is commonly used to manufacture shopping bags, frozen and fresh vegetable bags, fertilizer bags, dry cleaner bags and the majority of stretch wrap films, soft squeezable bottles, cosmetic tubes and a variety of low pressure agricultural pipes.

Recycled uses: Plastic bags, 6 pack rings, various containers, dispensing bottles, wash bottles, tubing, and various moulded laboratory equipment.

Type 5 - PP

Polypropylene is widely used in ketchup bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs, ice-cream packs medicine and syrup bottles, straws, Rubbermaid and other opaque plastic containers, including baby bottles. PP is a high-grade plastic, and is also used to make plastics that are microwave oven and dishwasher safe, Coca cola type bottle caps, as well as plastic chairs and plastic sacks.

Recycling uses: Polypropylene can be recycled many times, and is commonly used to manufacture auto parts, industrial fibres, food containers, and dishware.

Type 6 - PS

Polystyrene leaches styrene, which is an endocrine disruptor mimicking the female hormone estrogen, and thus has the potential to cause reproductive and developmental problems. Long-term exposure by workers has shown brain and nervous system effects; adverse effects on red blood cells, liver, kidneys and stomach in animal studies.

Styrene migrates significantly from polystyrene containers into the container's contents when oily foods are heated in such containers.

There are two types of polystyrene, high density and low density.
Low density polystyrene is used for egg, vegetable and meat trays in supermarkets, disposable cups and also insulation board.

High density polystyrene is often used for plastic coat hangers, cosmetic containers, CD and cassette cases, cafeteria trays, medical trays, pens, rulers, and is often used as the casing on computers, TVs and other electronic goods.

Recycling uses: Polystyrene can be recycled into desk accessories, cafeteria trays, toys, video cassettes and cases, and insulation board.

Type 7 - O

This plastic type includes all the plastics that don't fit into any of the above categories, or a plastic that is made up from more than one type of plastic.

While this plastic type includes mixed plastics, which are difficult to recycle, as well as polycarbonate wich is a bad plastic, it also includes a number of newer, biodegradeable plastics. These bio-oil plastics are usually manufactured from bio-based renewable resources, such as potato or corn starch, or sugar cane.

Please be advised that research is still ongoing in the plastic field, but be aware of the fact that everything you buy comes in some form of plastic, so as a consumer you should be looking to buy as little packaging on your item as possible and learning then to recycle what you can.

Plastic tips

Avoid polycarbonate (#7) baby bottles and sippy cups. For baby bottles, try and use glass, polyethylene or polypropylene instead. Sippy cups made of stainless steel or of polypropylene or polyethylene are safer. Be sure to check the bottle or cup to be sure of the type of plastic it contains. Also, for baby bottle nipples, try and use silicone which does not leach the carcinogenic nitrosamines that can be found in latex.

If you have to use polycarbonate (#7) bottles, avoid heating food and drink in the bottle. Heat it in a separate container and transfer it to the bottle once it is warm enough to eat or drink. If the plastic is showing signs of wear, is scratched or cloudy – please discard the container by placing it in your recycling bin.

Try to avoid heating foods in plastic containers, especially in the microwave oven, which can cause the plastic to degrade and leach chemicals faster. Leaching increases when plastic comes into contact with oily or fatty foods, or when the plastic is scratched, worn, cracked, or sticky.

Use plastic wraps cautiously, especially in the microwave, and don't let the plastic touch the food. Other alternatives include wax paper or paper towels.

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