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Plastic Recycling Ideas

August 18, 2022

Plastic Recycling Ideas

The world of recycling can seem complex and troubling, but it can be as simple as turning your shampoo bottles into a piggy bank. Keep reading for creative plastic recycling ideas and more information on sustainability through plastic recovery and reuse:

  • Recycling Vs. Upcycling Vs. Downcycling
  • 20 Creative Ways to Recycle Plastic Bottles
  • 6 Things Made from Recycled Plastic
  • Recycled Plastic As Part of Your Sustainability Strategy

Read this guide to plastic recycling ideas that can help individuals, as well as large organizations, practice sustainability.

Recycling vs. upcycling vs. downcycling

When discussing plastic recycling ideas, more terms seem to come into play, like upcycling and downcycling, but what do these mean? Essentially, upcycling and downcycling are types of recycling. Let’s dive into the differences.


Recycling is the collecting and processing of materials that would be considered trash and using them to create new products and items.

Traditionally, recycled items retain their value. Like if office paper materials create recycled office paper.


When materials are upcycled, it means that the value of the new product is higher than the value of the original product. You often find examples of upcycling on platforms like Etsy or Pinterest, where people take ordinary items and transform them into something artistic or more valuable.

An example would be using tin coffee cans as pots for plants. Instead of tossing this container and paying money for a pot, you can paint the tin can and use it for a lovely planter.


Downcycling is when the new product made from recycled materials is less valuable than the original product. This form of recycling is more common, as it’s typically easier and makes more sense.

An excellent example of downcycling is using old clothes to make rags or other fabric materials. People use worn t-shirts to make face masks, cleaning rags, or even facial towels.

Creative ways to recycle plastic bottles

It’s easy to throw away the plastic water bottle you just finished or your empty laundry detergent container. But taking a few extra steps to transform the plastic bottle, via upcycling or downcycling, can breathe new life into this potentially harmful material.

Instead of sending all your plastic bottles to landfills, get creative! Below are over twenty ways to recycle your plastic bottles and find a new way to use the item.

Snack storage

The best bottles for this are coffee creamer bottles and other items with dispensing features built-in. Clean the bottles and fill them with your favorite snacks.


People who love house plants often have propagations that need a new home. Instead of running out and dropping money for new pots, just cut your bottles in half and fill them with soil.

Watering can

The genius use of plastic bottles for gardeners is to make them into a watering can. This works best with larger bottles like detergent containers. If you poke holes in the lid, it’s easy to gently but thoroughly water your plants.


For something for bigger gardeners, large lawns, or just summer fun, poke holes in a two-liter bottle and stick your garden hose in it. Once it fills up, it will start squirting water out of the holes and caring for your plants and grass.

Plastic piggy bank

You can turn almost any plastic bottle into an adorable piggy bank to hold your change or encourage your kids to save money! Plus, this is a fun craft for you and your kids to do together.

Bird feeders

The birds will appreciate snacking on seeds from a recycled plastic bottle. You can cut a hole in the bottle and fill it with seeds or bird feed to keep your friendly flying neighbors fed and happy. Just hang it from your favorite tree or the eaves of your house.

Cap art

Many plastic bottle recycling ideas involve you throwing away the cap. But don’t! Save all the different colors, sizes, and shapes, and you can make bottle cap art. People make mosaics, lamps, and even purses using old bottle caps.

Party/holiday decor

Instead of buying a pumpkin for Halloween this year, use an old laundry detergent bottle to make Jack-O-Lanterns or spooky ghosts. For your next party, use plastic bottles to make adorable decorations. And for Christmas, you make DIY tree ornaments using your old plastic bottles.

Key or wallet dish

If you or someone in your household tends to put their keys down and forget where they are or misplace their wallet constantly, make them a designated key and wallet dish or bowl using the bottom of a plastic bottle.

Flower vases

Glass flower vases can be expensive and even dangerous when you have kids and pets running around. So put your lovely fresh-cut flowers in a fancy plastic bottle. Decorate them however you want, whether it’s a layer of paint or an intricate design.

Pencil holders

Sick of pencils and pens lying around? Do your kids neglect to put their art supplies away? Use tall and thin plastic bottles to make designated pencil holders! You can even glue zippers on them to make a handy dandy pencil case for school.

Outdoor decor

Plastic bottles resist the elements, so they’re an excellent material to make the outdoor decor. You can make hanging mobiles by cutting them into ribbon swirls or make adorable hedgehogs to protect your garden.

Hardware organizers

It’s easy to throw all your different screwdrivers and screws into one junk drawer. Use smaller plastic bottles to separate and organize all those tiny pieces of hardware.

Pet toy

Filling an empty plastic bottle with dog treats or cat nip and cutting a small opening is a great way to keep your pets entertained for hours while also recycling a bottle!

Garden tools

If you need a dirt scooper or a small rake to tend to your garden, you can use a plastic bottle to make all of these things!

DIY games

Using plastic bottles, you can make fun games like bottle cap checkers, bottle bowling, or a cup and ball game to entertain everyone.

Bag dispenser

If you have a dog, you know pulling out a plastic bag on your way to take them potty is something easily forgotten. But making a plastic bag dispenser from an old bottle helps you stay organized and remember a bag.

Rain gauge

Measuring the rain can be a fun experiment for kids and useful information for gardeners. Cutting a plastic bottle and labeling the side can make a recycled rain gauge!

Sand molds

Use different-shaped plastic bottles as sand castle molds at the beach. This is one of the best and most fun ways to recycle all different bottles.

Crafts for kids

When it comes to arts and crafts, plastic bottles offer endless possibilities. Make music shakers, Christmas ornaments, keychains, mini cars, and more.

6 Things made from recycled plastic

Ever wonder what items you use or see daily that are recycled materials? Listed below are a few common items made from all or mostly recycled plastic!


Many of the things you wear may consist of recycled plastic!

  • Activewear
  • Sneakers
  • Bathing suits
  • Face masks
  • Stockings
  • Backpacks
  • Jackets and outerwear

In your home

Even parts of your home that you touch everyday use recycled plastics:

  • Countertops
  • Carpets
  • Mats
  • Rugs
  • Furniture
  • Lighting
  • Garbage and recycling bins
  • Water filters

Everyday items

So many items we use every day demonstrate a form of recycling, and the list keeps getting longer:

  • Toiletry bottles
  • Trash bags
  • Planters
  • Shopping bags
  • Dog collars
  • Yoga mats
  • Jenga
  • Blankets
  • Cups and bowls
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Toothbrushes


Here are some things you see out and about that use recycled use plastics:

  • Traffic Cones
  • Patio furniture
  • Surfboards

So if you think there is a limit to what recycled plastic can do, you’re wrong! We are only hitting the tip of the iceberg with the potential of recycled plastics.

Recycled plastic as part of your sustainability strategy

While we discussed some great ways you can recycle plastic bottles in your home, real sustainability comes from larger companies and organizations.

Plastic Credits are a huge component of an organization’s sustainability strategy. There are two kinds of credits: Waste Collection Credits (WCCs) and Waste Recycling Credits (WRCs). WCCs are credited for plastic collected from the environment, and WRCs are credited for plastic from the recycling system.

Your organization can purchase plastic credits as a mechanism for funding plastic offset activities around the world. For instance, your plastic credits can be used to:

  • Invest in plastic collection and recycling projects to offset your annual footprint
  • Engage in high impact plastic collection and recycling projects around the world
  • Make long-term, structural investments in your organization towards sustainability and reducing your plastic footprint

In turn, this will help you achieve your sustainability goals and target, such as becoming an organization with a net-zero plastic footprint.


Both massive companies and individuals can practice plastic recycling through upcycling or downcycling. While it may be arts and crafts for a small family and Plastic Credits for a corporation, the sustainability motive is the same.

At Second Life, we empower companies to reduce plastic waste, the same way these plastic recycling ideas can encourage individuals to reuse their plastic waste.

Global movements to recover plastic, such as our plastic recovery projects, are the key to making plastic recycling successful on a global and local level.