18 December 2017

15 Ways to Re-use Plastic Household Waste

Have you been watching Blue Planet 2? I have found the series both an amazing spectacle and yet so saddening too. All of that plastic floating around the ocean, and even worse damaging the innocent wildlife,  has been a reminder of the danger that our fragile world is in. 

It may seem to be a daunting, and sometimes impossible task to save the planet. But there are small eco-friendly things we can do to help. Re-using plastic waste is one of these things and in this post, we have 15 different ideas on how to do just that, to do our bit to help protect the future of the planet.

Blue Planet II

 I love the filming and photography, the narrative - the story of the seas as it were. I also love that we see that the underwater creatures have personality. I never fail to be amazed by what they can do and can achieve. The clownfish that moved a coconut husk to make a better place to lay their eggs still astounds me. The sperm whales that sleep vertically. I really have watched in awe as it reminds us that the world is an amazing place full of stories, beauty and natural wonder.

I remember the first series well, from 2001, and this has been as good if not better as it uses breakthroughs in marine science and cutting-edge technology to explore new worlds and reveal the very latest discoveries. It has opened my eyes to some things that its all too easy to push to the back of your mind. It has been hard watching the beautiful creatures juxtaposed with the images of our seas and oceans filled with plastic and heavy metals, and where whales are deafened by noise pollution


Sir David Attenborough, who has been one of the world’s leading natural history filmmakers for 60 years, is also one of those people that I’ve yet to find anyone who does not like him or fails to be inspired by him. He has inspired my boys and their friends and school teachers. 

At my boys' primary school the programme has been discussed in lessons.  They even got to watch an episode one day as a treat for a great performance outside of school. I love that they consider a documentary a treat.

The issues raised provoking anger in our children - this is a good thing - maybe it will change behaviour if they challenge their parents, including me, on our existing and sometimes lazy habits.

We ordered our free poster from the Open University that accompanies the series and hopefully, the boys will keep on learning. 

Re-using and Recycling

Blue Planet II finished on BBC 1 a week ago but all of this got me thinking about re-using and recycling plastic in particular. Like many others, we have a household of plastic toys. When the boys grow out of them though we do donate to charity shops, pass on to friends or even sell to try and maximise the use of these products. 

I once did some work for a recycling awareness campaign, and even though I did that the rules around recycling are often confusing. What can and can't be recycled for example? What happens if you get it wrong. It would be so much easier if it was the same everywhere. We ran a campaign to promote the recycling of bathroom empties, as people often didn't see these as recyclable.

I remember as a student washing out glass pop bottles and taking them back to the shop for a refund. We used to save them up until we had enough for a quarter bottle of vodka at a time! Wish schemes like that still existed now. The milkman delivered our milk every morning too, taking away the empties. So much less waste.

I also love art made from reusing waste such as the Rose Window with a difference inspired by the Rose Window in Durham Cathedral by Mick Stephenson that was on display at Lumiere Durham in 2015 - this stained glass window is actually made out of plastic bottles! Mick has a track record of turning rubbish into beautiful illuminated art.

But what is better than recycling, is re-using an item if you can. To recycle plastic and glass takes additional resources and energy, which is better than depositing in a landfill, but not as good as re-using or re-purposing things.

Easy Ways to Re-Use Waste Plastic

In our kitchen, we try to re-use as many empty bottles as possible. Here are my top 5 easy ways to re-use plastic:

  • Plastic Innocent fruit juice bottles make good storage holders for rice and lentils. And if you buy the rice and lentils lose then its even less waste.
  • Plastic Morrison's Milkshake bottles make good storage holders for oats and cereal. They have a wide enough neck to be able to decant food in and they then pour out really easily too.
  • Glass coffee jars are used for pasta, dried fruit and seeds -  I purposely buy a particular brand so they all match.
  • 4 pinter milk plastic cartons with top and bottom cut off make a great slud deterrent for around strawberries and can be used as a cloche on other plants and seedlings.
  • I also use the boys baby bottles as measuring jugs.

But I thought there must be more we can all do too. There's lots of really useful information on the Blue Planet website. And I asked other parents of any innovative ways they have to re-use the plastic containers we no longer need ...

Rachel uses all sorts of tubs and jars to store craft stuff - stickers, foam shapes and ribbons. All very useful. 

Laura uses their leftover coffee jars to store our coins. They separate their pennies, 10ps and pounds etc then count them when they get full. She says it saves chucking them in a piggy bank and then having to sort them. I really like this idea and may copy!

Helen takes her washing up/laundry liquid plastic bottles to be refilled at Sesi Refill Station in  East Oxford Farmers Market, where you can also buy loose beans/pasta/rice. This place sounds brilliant.

Pete uses some of the bigger containers for his kid’s lunch boxes. Great idea!

Veronica uses plastic containers as plant pots. As she says if plastics ruin the environment, why not use it to rehabilitate it. Totally agree.

Lynn made shakers (with lentils or beans or pasta) out of her old baby bottles. She say they all sound different and her little boy loves them. Her husband uses yoghurt pots to separate and store his Lego into categories and colours. I’ve also used pots & the bottom of milk cartons to grow plants from seed until they can be planted outside. Very creative.

Collette uses ice cream tubs to keep Sylvanian Families bits and pieces in, as they are literally tiny! She also uses them to try and keep lego sets together - at least for a short while :)  Great attempt.

Sal's children love playing with empty plastic bottles in the bath! She says they keep them occupied longer than any toy she has ever bought. Perfect.

Maggy uses bubble wrap and plastic bags to make Puffy Sheep. Genius.

Claire has used plastic bottles to make pencil holders, a night light, umbrella stand and a bag sealer. These all look fab too.

Georgina says she reuses jars, interesting plastic bottles and containers as all sorts! Pencil holders, plant pots for seedlings, food containers, paint pots for the kids to name a few. It really is that easy.

So Here Are 15 Ways to Re-Use Plastic Household Waste

  1. Food Storage
  2. Measuring Jug
  3. Garden Cloche
  4. Piggy Bank
  5. Lunch Box
  6. Plant Pots
  7. Musical shakers
  8. Toy boxes
  9. Bath Toys
  10. Pencil Holder
  11. Night Light
  12. Umbrella Stand
  13. Bag Sealer
  14. Mobile
  15. Propagation

What do you do with your household waste plastic?

Deb x

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  1. Gosh I never considered re using them. They always go straight in our recycling bin to be forgotten about. Sadly I never saw the series but it sounds amazing. There's some really great ideas here for reuse thank you. We will have to get creative.

  2. Great info here. I try to reuse and recycle our plastic as much as possible.

  3. I have never watched Blue Planter before. I don't really do anything with used plastic bottles to reuse them, they just go straight in the recycling bin x

  4. I know there has been a big empathises of this subject of plastic waste all over the news recently. Glad to see someone actually taking the initiative and putting used all plastic to good use.

    John M

  5. Wow so many great ideas. I recycle but don't go quite this far x

  6. They used to have an Ecover refillable washing up liquid station in a shop in our town which was brilliant but the store closed down which is such a shame. Supermarkets should adopt the idea.