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Frugal: Uses for Plastic Soda Bottles - FYI

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Paint Trays. Cut out the bottom of the bottle and use it as a paint tray. It’s easy to wash and convenient to carry.

Dripless cold packs. Fill these bottles almost to the top with water, freeze and then use in your coolers instead of loose ice or ice in plastic bags. It's cheaper and a lot less messy than all those melting cubes. Plus, keeping your freezer filled helps to insulate it and makes it operate more efficiently, not to mention that a full freezer keeps things colder for longer in the event of a power outage. Your potential savings: about $2 to $3 for every 10-pound bag of ice.

Workout weights. Try a soda bottle workout! Fill different-sized bottles with water or sand to use as free weights on land or in the pool. A one-liter bottle filled with sand weighs about 3.5 pounds. Your potential savings: A pair of 3-pound hand weights will cost you about $10. Or cancel your gym membership and just work out with soda bottle weights instead, which will save you an average of about $600 a year.

Toilet tank trick. Drop a plastic bottle or two filled with water (or water and gravel) into your toilet tank and you'll displace enough water to save half a gallon or more with every flush. Most toilets flush just fine with less water, and you'll conserve water and save money. Your potential savings: Based on the average American household's FPP (flushes per person), a family of four will save about 16 gallons of water a day with this little trick. That could add up to saving almost $100 a year on your water bill.

Festive patio lighting. Don't put away your strings of Christmas lights after the holidays. Instead, feed them into colorful empty soda bottles and rope them together (secured with duct tape) to hang around the patio in the summertime.

A juicy tip. Cut the base off a two-liter plastic bottle and you have something that looks almost like the plastic juicers you buy at the grocery store. Use the base to start squeezing fresh orange juice and lemonade. Your potential savings: Buying a cheap plastic juicer will set you back at least a couple of bucks, while a fancy chrome-plated citrus press or electric juicer can cost between $20 and $200.

Watering a Plant. Cut off the base, stick the bottle neck part into the ground next to the plant. Some dirt will go into the neck so when you pour water into the open cut part, it will drip slowly.

Funnel. Cut off base and use top as a funnel

Potpourri Holder. ‘ Cut out the bottom of the bottle, put in the potpourri and cover the opening with lace and ribbon

Piggy Bank.‘ We all the value of a dollar, so saving every single penny counts. Cut a slit in the bottle and drop in your coins, but don’t open it and take it to a Coinstar facility until it’s full

Coffee Maker. ‘ Cut the bottle into two pieces. Turn the top upside down so it is a funnel. Hold the funnel in place, and then place a coffee filter inside. Put ground coffee on the filter and pour hot water over the filter. It’s the cheapest coffee maker you’ll ever find!

Motion Ocean Bottle. ‘ If you’re the creative type, then you can fill the bottle with half water/half oil. Add some food coloring, glitter and anything else shiny that is small enough to fit, and be amazed at how cool it can look.

Planter. Just cut out the bottom, add some soil and your favorite plant, and you have an eco-friendly plastic pot.

Ready-to-Use Ice Packs. Fill the bottle about 2/3 full and freeze. You can use it to heal a sore ankle after a run in the park, or fill it up with a warm drink so it can be cold in a few minutes.

Flying Insect Trap. ‘ Cut the top off the bottle and turn it upside down as a funnel. Tape the funnel in place and add some soda, orange juice or other sweet liquid. Any pesky flies or other flying insects will be able to get in, but since they can’t fly upward, they will be trapped inside the bottle.

Candle Holders. ‘ If you have some long candlesticks and want to prepare a nice, cheap romantic dinner for you and your significant other, cut the top of the soda bottles off, sit them on the table with the funnel-side upward and insert the candles into the holes. Very useful and practical.

Plastic Bottle Trellis. ‘ Found the directions for this on

Homemade Heat Sink. A heat sink is something that absorbs heat, in this case from the sun, and dissipates the excess heat. Green cheapskates are doing some creative things with plastic bottles, using them as heat sinks and even insulation to help heat and cool their homes. Savings: Every degree you heat/cool your home during the year is equivalent to about 2% of your total household energy bill. Depending on where you live and how you heat/cool, a single degree or two difference could save you $100.


Chemicals May Contaminate Food and Drinks in Reused Plastic Bottles
Studies have indicated that food and drinks stored in such containers—including those ubiquitous clear Nalgene water bottles hanging from just about every hiker’s backpack—can contain trace amount of Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical that interferes with the body’s natural hormonal messaging system.

Reused Plastic Bottles Can Leach Toxic Chemicals
The same studies found that repeated re-use of such bottles—which get dinged up through normal wear and tear and while being washed—increases the chance that chemicals will leak out of the tiny cracks and crevices that develop over time. According to the Environment California Research & Policy Center, which reviewed 130 studies on the topic, BPA has been linked to breast and uterine cancer, an increased risk of miscarriage, and decreased testosterone levels.

BPA can also wreak havoc on children’s developing systems. (Parents beware: Most baby bottles and sippy cups are made with plastics containing BPA.) Most experts agree that the amount of BPA that could leach into food and drinks through normal handling is probably very small, but there are concerns about the cumulative effect of small doses.

Even Plastic Water and Soda Bottles Should Not Be Reused
Health advocates also recommend not reusing bottles made from plastic #1 (polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET or PETE), including most disposable water, soda and juice bottles. According to The Green Guide, such bottles may be safe for one-time use, but re-use should be avoided because studies indicate they may leach DEHP—another probable human carcinogen—when they are in less-than-perfect condition.

Millions of Plastic Bottles End Up in Landfills
The good news is that such bottles are easy to recycle; just about every municipal recycling system will take them back. But using them is nonetheless far from environmentally responsible: The nonprofit Berkeley Ecology Center found that the manufacture of plastic #1 uses large amounts of energy and resources and generates toxic emissions and pollutants that contribute to global warming. And even though PET bottles can be recycled, millions find their way into landfills every day in the U.S. alone.

Incinerating Plastic Bottles Releases Toxic Chemicals
Another bad choice for water bottles, reusable or otherwise, is plastic #3 (polyvinyl chloride/PVC), which can leach hormone-disrupting chemicals into the liquids they are storing and will release synthetic carcinogens into the environment when incinerated. Plastic #6 (polystyrene/PS), has been shown to leach styrene, a probable human carcinogen, into food and drinks as well.

Safe Reusable Bottles Do Exist
Safer choices include bottles crafted from safer HDPE (plastic #2), low-density polyethylene (LDPE, AKA plastic #4) or polypropylene (PP, or plastic #5). Aluminum bottles, such as those made by SIGG and sold in many natural food and natural product markets, and stainless steel water bottles are also safe choices and can be reused repeatedly and eventually recycled.

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at:, or e-mail:

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Frugal: Uses for Plastic Soda Bottles - FYI