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Recycle and re-use plastic containers in a creative way (Make a pen)

This is a great tutorial on how to easily/safely transform all those empty plastic containers into projects that you can use.

This tutorial is in two parts. First I show you the process of recycling the milk jug plastic. From there you can use it to make just about anything!

And, the second half of this tutorial shows you how to turn your plastic into a great looking pen.

It's a really fun process and a special thanks go to a friend (Paul H.) who made this project and put this whole tutorial together!


I am a big fan of re-using the wide array of packaging that we all get on a daily basis. These packages are very useful. A good example of this repurposing is the section of my website devoted to corrugated cardboard boxes. If you are looking for ideas for boxes check that section out right here: Cardboard Projects .

Here is the pen body we make in this tutorial. Looks great!

Quick Overview of what we do in this tutorial:

  1. We gather up milk jugs and cut them into strips then small bits
  2. heat those bits in an oven to soften and homogenize it
  3. press that softened plastic into a home made wooden press
  4. We end up with a solid blank of plastic. We cut that then turn it on a lathe to make a pen blank.

**Shop safety note:

Plastic gets hot and when you mix and manipulate it for �marbling effect' please use some heavy leather gloves and mix it quickly. It will cool enough to harden externally but still retain sufficient heat within to transmit through gloves.

When using power tools please use the appropriate protective eyewear and heed the safety of operational instructions for them.

There are no toxic fumes when melting this material at recommended temperatures.

Milk Jug Plastic!!!

We are going to use a very common type of plastic called "HDPE" which stands for "High Density Poly Ethylene".

It is a type of plastic that we find in many things. The most common is in the form of containers for our milk.









To recognise and differentiate it from other types of plastic take a look for a small triangle with the number 2 in the centre. This number "2" is important. This is the type of plastic that we want for this project. If your plastic has other numbers set it aside for other uses.


It can be literally anything in use around your home and can be found in a multitude of colours (colors � USA)










The logo is found on the lids of containers too. And these lids can be a fantastic part of the project because they add a variety of bright colors.









Thoroughly wash the milk jug, remove the label and dry it.

Cut the bottom off the jug then cut it into a spiral about an inch wide.









Then cut those strips into smaller bits.












Smaller bits will soften quicker in the oven.











Place a pile of plastic bits on a piece of parchment paper which is on a cookie sheet. Then place it in the oven.

Coloured lids could be added too, flat side down. When a sufficient amount was gathered these smaller pieces were spread out thinly in layers on some greaseproof paper and placed on a metal sheet to melt.

Note: Parchment paper is specially made for use in the oven. It is a standard product for bakers. You can get it real cheap from any grocery store. Amazon also has it right here: Parchment Paper


Set the oven temperature to 150 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit).

As it melts briefly remove the cookie plate from the oven and add more bits of plastic.

Slowly building it up until a sufficient quantity has been achieved. After folding and twisting the plastic an impressionistic pattern starts to emerge.









Manipulate the material as much as you can before it starts cooling. You can judge the time for its return to heat when it stops moving in your hand. Manipulation may take a lot of time to achieve a good mixing and melting of the material. As it gets thicker you may wish to increase the temperature that will give you a quicker melting time. Flatten it down as much as you can at this stage.


Let's press this plastic into a flat and thick sheet. We make a Press out of wood.