How to upcycle your plastics

Earth Day is officially celebrated on 22 April 2018 during Earth Month. This year’s theme is ‘Plastic Pollution’. As such a crucial topic and one that TerraCycle is heavily invested in throughout April during Earth Month, we will present facts and tips on how to deal with, and essentially help reduce, the problem of Plastic Pollution.

Last week in part 2, we covered a number of ideas on how you can reduce your use of plastics. By swapping or even cutting plastic products out of your everyday life, you could contribute to a more sustainable and plastic-free earth.

But if the plastics can’t be avoided, what then?

In this week’s Plastic Pollution post, we’re going to talk about the second best option to reducing plastic products entirely: reusing the ones you already have.
On average, a plastic bag is used for just 12 minutes before it goes into the bin. Instead of letting your plastics reach the end of their lives so soon, you can prolong their lives by giving them new function and purpose – by upcycling!

Upcycling is a great way to reuse materials without reducing their quality. When a plastic product is recycled, the new resulting material will usually be of lesser quality than the former. With upcycling, the original quality is kept and even improved as the new product will have gained new purpose and value. 

The best kind of upcycling is one that:

  • Replaces new materials that would have otherwise been used
  • Keeps the trash material from landfill or incineration
  • Makes a product that has a function and provides us with something
  • Teaches us something about our wasteful ways by making our trash visible

From lampshades to planters

We have found plenty of ways to upcycle your disposable plastics! If you are in the process of decorating or renovating your house, you can turn plastic bags into a unique and beautiful lamp shade, or use them as outdoor pillow stuffing. Floral decorations are also an option if you feel in a creative mood!


Plants and animals lovers can make bird feeders with plastic bottles, or use their plastic tins as planters to grow their succulent.

Finally, several charities have taken the initiative to create sleeping mats for homeless people from disposable plastic bags. If you want to make them too, and help your community while saving the planet, you will need about 500-700 plastic bags and a crochet hook. Take a look at this tutorial for the instructions.  

More examples of upcycling projects you can do yourself including gift bows, wallets, plant tags and hair clips can be found on the TerraCycle website!  Or TerraCycle’s book ‘Make Garbage Great’ a family guide to a zero-waste lifestyle, which includes a host of upcycled DIY’s such as a Food pouch tote bag and food wrapper napkin ring is available in Kindle format and hardback book via this link

Upcycle your plastics into Artwork

You could even turn the ever-increasing beach plastics into a piece of art.

“Strand”, for the UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre, by Stuart Haygarth

The artist Stuart Haygarth, for example, collected hundreds of objects found during a 500-mile coastal walk from Gravesend in Kent to Land’s End in Cornwall, and turned them into an artwork called ‘Strand’, installed at the Macmillan Cancer Centre in London.

Mermaid in a sea of 10,000 plastic bottles

The Canadian artist Benjamin Von Wong, created his ‘Mermaid in a sea of 10,000 plastic bottles‘, to raise awareness on the beach plastic issue and transform garbage into a message: #MermaidsHatePlastic


So give your plastics a second life and please share images of your upcycled items (or artwork) with us!

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