Plastic bottles are one of the biggest concerns among plastic pollution.
Even if you have an environmentalist’s mindset and want to reuse them, not every type of plastic bottle can be reused.
Let’s discuss the different types of plastic used, which ones are safe, and which ones you absolutely should not reuse.
There’s a line between the environment and damaging your own health.
Identify the Plastic Number
Plastics come with different number grading systems that define what they are made of.
We’ll explain the exact components so you know what to look for, but you should know that there are six major plastic numbers that dictate safety and primary ingredients, and one that just basically shrugs and say, “There could be anything in there.”
If you find as #2, #4, or #5 plastic, those are fairly safe to reuse. These contain low levels of polyethylene thermoplastic, low-density polyethylene, and polypropylene.
You’ll find this plastic in children’s toys, plastic water bottles, and the internal resin lining of cardboard that’s meant to contain food and beverages.
It’s arguable that all plastic is harmful, but these are the safest that you can use, and some of the most common.
We can’t currently get away from plastic, so this is a good way to ensure safety in today’s consumer culture.
Then you have #1 and technically what is classified as #7.
Polyethylene is the most common component (which is different from low-density polyethylene, which we will get into in a moment), terephthalate, and various other plastics.
You’ve likely seen talk of items not containing phthalates in other posts on our site, and for good reason: it’s toxic.
The problem is, we do see phthalates used in containers that store food, like juice jugs, water bottles, and peanut butter containers, just to name a few.
It’s difficult to know which plastic your water bottles are made out of, but we’re going to get into that shortly. #3 and #6 plastics are extremely bad.
Some contain polystyrene, and if that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s what’s used in more styrofoam.
You also have polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is okay to use in cleaning gloves, but isn’t exactly okay to store anything consumable in.
You can identify the number of plastic by looking at the recycling logo on the bottom of the container. It will be surrounded by the three triangles of the logo.
About BPA in Plastic Bottles
BPA is a tricky thing to talk about.
There isn’t enough solid research to say that it’s absolutely horrible for us one way or the other.
Back in 2008 when the news stories about BPA broke out, it wasn’t like it was some new chemical that was being added into plastics to harm us.
In truth, it’s been used for nearly half a century in plastic development.
The FDA states that the low levels of BPA found in plastic containers is safe, but with a lack of research and evidence, it’s always better to assume that BPA is more harmful than it actually may be.
After all, none of us know if a groundbreaking three-year-long study on BPA is about to drop and what it might contain.
It’s one of the reasons we urge readers to reuse glass bottles when available, since there’s absolutely no risk associated with reusing glass.
The same can be said for food storage containers. At this point, BPA should be avoided, but not particularly for any reason other than the mystery surrounding its effects on the human body.
The less plastic anything in your body, the better.
Different Uses of Used Plastic Bottles
Now that we’ve painted a picture about plastic bottles, it’s time to discuss all the ways we can reuse them in their current state with as little harm as possible.
There are plenty of different plastic bottle types apart from just water bottles.
Cut the bottom of just about any standing plastic bottle, and smooth out the cut line.
Pop some pens in them to hold onto at your home office desk, or fill them with crayons to bring out for the children.
It’s a good way of teaching them to surround themselves with reusable products.
If you’re like most of us, then you drink coffee and hopefully use reusable coffee filters.
You might have a plastic bottle that stores coffee creamer in the fridge right now. Clean it once it’s empty, and then store snacks in it.
The large pop-top designs that most creamers have makes them perfect to store snacks in, and display them on the countertop.
This actually gives you the opportunity to recycle some other things in your home as well.
Whether metal or wooden, you can grab a spoon and drive it through the side of a plastic bottle (like a 20 oz soda bottle) and fill it up with bird seed.
So long as the hole on the side is slightly bigger than the diameter of the spoon handle, it will slowly leak out bird seed, while the spoon has somewhere for the bird to perch while they eat.
Feeding nature by saving plastic from getting into nature.
This one takes a lot of bottle caps, but it comes out really cool.
If your family uses a lot of water bottles, use the caps to glue onto a piece of cardboard, and over time you’ll be able to mix and match the colors to make an insane piece of artwork.
It’s not only really cool looking, but it’s a visible representation of all the good you’re doing for the environment.
Laundry detergent bottles and plastic drink bottles, like those used for orange juice, can have a few small holes drilled into the lids and be used as watering cans to keep your plants nice and healthy.
This will actually come in handy with another thrifty water bottle reuse idea later on in this guide.
Outdoor Irrigation System
There’s two things you can do here: you can puncture holes in a two liter bottle to make a sprinkler, or you can hang these bottles upside down with a pinhole in the cap to make a slow drip irrigation system.
You have to string these up on wires (chicken wire will do) to hang them properly over your plants, but this can work wonders as a cheap system in a small greenhouse.
Don’t have a greenhouse to put a plastic irrigation system in? No worries. You can actually make them out of plastic bottles.
This requires making measured cuts in each bottle, generally using the same sized bottles, and having a solid frame to attach them to.
You’re basically weaving them together like a sheet. This can take a lot of effort, but kudos to you if you can gather plastic bottles from friends and neighbors to contribute.
This is a lot of waste that’s not going to end up in a landfill, and you’ll save a killing on the cost difference between this and a traditional greenhouse.
Those five-gallon jugs count as water bottles too.
If you cut the top off of one and use a flat iron to smooth out the edges, you can flip this upside down, and with some DIY magic, turn it into an ottoman.
Get some rubber feet to secure to the bottom, a cushion to secure to the top, and a roll of fabric to wrap around the rest of it.
It’ll be a lightweight piece of makedo furniture, but nobody is going to suspect a thing.
Bottle Top Tool Rack
Not to be confused with the bottle cap.
You can chop off the top of the bottle where the cap goes, and then screw one side of it into a plank of wood.
Hang that wood over your bench with about ten or twenty of these bottlenecks attached, and you have the perfect place to store simple tools like screwdrivers, pliers, and lightweight hammers.
Got some two liter bottles laying around?
Cutting them down to size could be the perfect height for some small indoor planters.
You can fit about six to eight ounces of dirty in them, let the flowers bloom, and then transplant them to outside.
You don’t want the plastic bottles being introduced to nature, but using them indoors is a perfect way to reuse.
Yeah, you heard us right.
You can turn an old two liter bottle (or smaller one for a travel kit) into a first-aid kit, and it’s not that difficult to do.
First, you need to put the cap on and find a way to seal it in place. This prevents debris from getting inside the container.
Next, make a perfect line above 3/4 the way up the bottle, and cup the top off almost completely.
Use a zipper kit, available at any arts and crafts store, and secure a zipper to turn that bottle into a zipper pouch that’s perfect for storing essential first-aid items.