Ideabox: Plastic Bottles

Everybody loves to hate plastic bottles, and yet somehow it’s impossible to be rid of them, even for the most conscientious reusable-bottle carrier.  Here are a few incredibly cool artists who have figured out fun ways to repurpose the ever-present plastic bottle, and a few ways you can do the same.

ideabox plastic bottles

Art from the Ugly

Here are a few artists I admire, who work with plastics and make thought-provoking and beautiful objects from less-than-sightly leftovers.

David Edgar – makes impressively beautiful marine life sculptures from discarded detergent bottles.  He was a featured artist in the PEM/Art & Nature Center show, Trash Menagerie.

Miwa Koizumi – Her PET project created stunningly ethereal jellyfish and coral forms out of plastic bottles.  While not the most eye-catching of the pieces in Trash Menagerie, they were still among my favorites.

Christine Destrempes This artist is currently featured for her River of Words project in Ripple Effect, the Art of H2O, but one of her best known pieces is an installation of bottle caps, each representing a person who dies for lack of clean drinking water. 

Stuff You Can Do

Cool Project Links

Photo credit to the site linked below

Plastic Bottle Zippered Purse/Box – Upcycle those unredeemable bottles into handy containers.  (I’ve always been a fan of Winnie the Pooh’s ‘useful pot to put things in’ theory of birthday presents.)

Wave Bottles — One of my favorites, and you can find lots of suggestions for how to fill them.  (I use water with food coloring and baby oil because it’s perfectly clear, but some people recommend vegetable oil as well.)  I like adding a layer of glitter to lie on top of the waves, too, and gave people the option of also adding floating beads, or sinking shells, sea glass, and pebbles.  When I did this activity with a group at the museum, I went for a purpose-bought set of bottles with sealable leak proof tops instead of recycling, so that I didn’t have to worry about getting the label glue off.

Photo credit, Educational Innovations at

Science Kits — I don’t usually advocate for things one has to buy, and I haven’t actually tried any of these, so I don’t know how well they work, but they sure do look like fun.  (I really want to build a tin can robot!)

Plastic Bottle Bracelet Directions

It’s almost spring (or at least I can pretend it is, right?) and one’s thoughts naturally turn to the pleasant days to come when it isn’t imperative to wear three layers of sweaters on a constant basis and can bear to bare one’s wrists.  I was simply stunned at the variety of directions for making bracelets out of plastic bottles: these two cuff-style bangles are fabric-covered and felted, while this one (typos and all) recommends giving your bangle some twisted appeal by heating it over a candle.  I think anything involving not only exacto blades but heat and needles has the potential for tragedy, but then I gave myself a foot-long scratch with a sewing pin this weekend, so caveat crafter.

Photo credit Click the picture for directions!

My favorites, therefore, are these simple plastic and paper bangles, using two layers of bottle-rings to sandwich a particularly cool artwork, illustration, magazine cutout, or seasonal wrapping paper.  These directions recommend using metallic tape, which looks classy, but electrical tape works just as well, comes in a variety of fun colors, and stretches as you wrap it so you actually get very few problematic wrinkles.  The version I’ve made also cuts both rings at one spot so that the bangle can adjust to any size wrist: very helpful if you’re starting with a small bottle!

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