Saturday, April 12, 2014

5 ways to reuse a two-liter plastic bottle

5 ways to reuse a two-liter plastic bottle

Nearly everyone has bought a delicious sugary drink in a two-liter bottle at some point. What do you do when the bottle is empty?

By: Eileen Campbell

Recycling plastic is very important, especially now that the effects of climate change can be seen around the country. According to Earth911, only about 27 percent of plastic is recycled in the U.S. When you think about how much we use, it's astounding. However, there are some innovative ways to recycle plastic bottles! Two-liter bottles in particular are versatile. Here some ways you can reuse them in your own back yard!

1. Grow plants

Once you empty and wash a two-liter plastic bottle, it can be used for quite a lot of things. You can actually grow plants in one, if you cut it a certain way and give it the proper drainage. To make a basic plant pot, cut the bottle in half (short-ways, not long-ways), and use the bottom portion to fill with soil. You'll need to poke some holes in the bottom so the plant can drain properly. Using the bottom of the bottle (which is specially shaped to allow it to stand up) keeps the pot secure and unlikely to tip over. You can also make a mini hanging basket out of this sort of pot, if you punch holes in the side to attach a string to hang the pot from. These pots are generally suited for small plants, so they are good for starting plants out (you may have to re-pot them when they get too big). Alternatively, you can also use the bottle for starting seedlings! If you cut the bottle longways, it makes a nice long tray that you can fill with soil and start some baby plants. These will obviously need to be repotted, too, but you can start a lot of seedlings this way.

2. Make a birdfeeder

This is something that is done very often with plastic bottles of this size. If you poke large enough holes for birds to poke their beaks through, and fill the bottle with seeds, it can function as a bird feeder. You also might want to use small pieces of wood dowels to attach near the holes, so the birds have a place to perch. Since these bottles are large, they are better used for larger seeds such as corn, peanuts or sunflower seeds. Small seeds like thistles are likely to just fall out of the holes you make.

3. Give birds a home

Since two-liter bottles are relatively large, they can be used for a birdhouse as well. You should cut one main circular hole in the middle for the birds to enter, and use a similar sort of perch that you would put on a birdfeeder for the outside of the hole. It's also a nice option to fill the birdhouse with material birds might use for a nest. Since the bottle is clear, it's best if you paint the bottle before using it as a birdhouse, so the birds will have privacy and protection. Any color will work, although if you paint the bottle the color of a tree, birds might be more likely to come because it looks more natural. Once the birdhouse is painted and fully assembled, you can tie a string around the top of the bottleneck (make sure the bottle cap is on!), and hang it from a tree branch.

4. Hatch some butterflies

If you cut off the top of a two liter bottle, it can be used for a relatively spacious habitat to grow baby caterpillars. Once you cut off the top, you can cover the place where the top was with a piece of cloth, which will allow any caterpillars you keep inside to breathe. You can raise a number of different types of caterpillars in your caterpillar habitat, depending on where you live. In Illinois, we've been able to raise monarch, swallowtail and painted lady eggs into full grown butterflies. Make sure to feed the caterpillars the leaves they would normally feed on in the wild, and regularly rid the habitat of dead leaves and/or waste. When the caterpillars get large enough that they are about to make their chrysalises, it's helpful to put a few sticks in the habitat, so they have something to hang from. They might hang from the cloth as well, so it's important to make sure the cloth is tight around the top of the enclosure. Use a rubber band to make sure of this. And when the butterflies hatch, you can let them go in the wild!

5. Make a terrarium

I mentioned how to make a terrarium in one of my most recent posts. However, you do not just have to stick to a glass container! You can make a terrarium out of a plastic bottle, too, albeit a small one. As with any terrarium, make sure to put pebbles in the bottom, under the soil, for proper drainage. For a terrarium of this size, moss or small tropical plants might be best. There are many tiny varieties of plants grown just for this purpose, so take a look at your local nursery to see what they have. Once the plants are firmly in the soil, water them, and then close the lid of the bottle. It's as easy as that.

Hopefully, more and more people will recycle plastic. With these sorts of ideas, especially for those of us inclined toward nature, remembering to recycle plastic bottles can even be fun!

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