In the not too distant past, you would buy milk, sodas, etc. in glass bottles which you would return to the store to be sterilized and used again. Now, with our disposable culture, plastic bottles have replaced this system and have consequently become one of the many banes of the landfills. We need to rectify this wasteful and eco-nomically expensive practice.
The current popular solution to the problem is recycling. However, recycling requires additional energy to process the material into something usable, not to mention the fact that the process itself can have harmful side effects. So a better solution, if you can't avoid the disposable containers altogether, is to reuse them. This requires no added infrastructure costs and concerns. In fact, if you are reusing junk, you are helping to make the initial energy that went into the production of that material last longer and go farther. It’s not just about saving money, but more importantly, integrating your lifestyle with what is available for the least amount of cost, be it environmental or financial.
That said, here are a few simple ideas on how to reuse plastic bottles around the homestead:
- Cut the top (just before the start of the cone) off a 2 liter bottle. Invert the cone and place it inside the straight part of the bottle.
- Glue the two pieces together, using a glue or silicon.
- Add 1 tsp yeast and ½ cup sugar to some lukewarm water, and pour the mixture into the bottle.
Mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide that you exhale. The yeast feeds off the sugar and emits the same gas, so the mosquito enters the bottle, thinking she will find food there. She cannot then get out.
You can use the same bottle design for a fly trap, but fill it with a putrid smelling liquid. For wasps, use a sugar mixture. For fish, put under water, and add a bit of cheese or bread.
Make a diagonal cut somewhere in the straight part of a 2 liter bottle (depending on what size you want it). You now have a scoop. We use one for the cover material for the composting toilet, and one for chicken feed.
Cut the cone part off a clear plastic bottle, and you are left with a handy holder that you can see inside of. We use ours for nuts, bolts, nails, etc. They are also great for long-term storage of liquids, like gasoline, oil, paint, etc. Just make sure you keep them out of the sun and heat, as that will cause them to break down fast.
When you want to start a seedling in the ground a little early, but fear it could be chilly, you need a cold-frame. It's like a little greenhouse. Clear plastic bottles work great for this. Cut the cone part off and invert the remaining part of the bottle over your seedling. Push the bottle into the soil, so that it does not blow away. In the middle of warm springs days, it is a good idea to raise the bottle a bit and allow air and heat to escape.
Use one of the cones you have cut off for either the handy holders or the cold-frames. It makes a great cookie cutter.
Use a wide-mouthed bottle for this.
- Separate the cream from your cow's or goat's milk and allow it to ripen a little. If you allow the cream to ripen a little, the butter will be more flavorful and easier to churn. Do not let it ripen too much or the butter will be sour.
- Get the cream to about 60ºF. Pour it inside the wide-mouthed bottle and screw the lid on tightly.
- Roll the bottle back and forth on the floor for about 20 minutes, or until the cream separates into buttermilk and clumps of butter. This is a great chore for the kids to do!
- Drain off the buttermilk (great for baking or milkshakes or animal feed).
- Take the clumps of butter and beat them with a spoon until it’s all joined together. Add salt – ½ tsp per pound of butter (unsalted butter spoils faster).
- Wrap butter in wax paper and put it in the fridge.
Fill the bottle with dirt and you have a brick. Dirt is a very cheap building material, but you usually need it to be a certain quality, with a proper sand/clay ratio. However, with the plastic bottles, you can build with any type of dirt. Use mortar in between the bottles, as with any other brick. Be sure to cover the ends of the bottles to avoid seeing them in the finished wall.
Alternatively, leave the bottles empty, or full of air. This will give the wall a better insulation value.
Leave a bottle exposed, and insert a solar garden light in the other end. Instant wall lighting.
- Cut the cone off a small plastic bottle. With a box cutter, cut the thread off the mouth of the bottle, so that it is smooth.
- Take an old incandescent light bulb and smash the bulb. Clean any glass off the screw-in part.
- Cut a circle out of a piece of thin card (diameter should fit inside the plastic cone).
Pierce the card with however many holes needed to make the bulb you want. We made DC bulbs, because our lights run off DC. We made one bulb with 6 white LEDs (which is not very bright, but works for a lamp) and one with a mixture of several white and yellow LEDs. However many lights you want and whatever voltage you need, you will have to make the voltage regulator match.
- Solder your LEDs together, positive to negative.
- Solder the resistor to the negative end.
- Solder the ends of this array to the respective leads of the voltage regulator. On the input side fo the voltage regulator, solder the positive to the tip of the light bulb base. The negative goes to the side of the screw in part of the light bulb.
- Glue the plastic bottle to the base.
Cut a small bottle in half. You can use both halves. Using one half cut a Z groove on the open end. Directly opposite of the bottle, but still on the open end, cut another Z groove, and make sure to make it a mirror image of the first. Now, on the closed in, make a slit or large hole for your post to run through both sides of the bottle. Near the slit, make two small holes, either side of the post slit. Use this end to wire to the post, and run the electric fence through the Z groove.
Fill bottles with water and put them in the freezer. You can use them in an ice chest to keep things cold on the go. You can also put them in your fridge to improve its efficiency. If the power goes off, the ice packs will keep things colder for longer.
Cut the bottom disc off something like a yogurt cup. Drill a hole in the center and use it as a wide washer for something like putting up insulation.
You are limited purely by your imagination. There are so many other ideas out there, it seems a tragedy to throw away a PET bottle.