Turn your milk bottle tops into pet bowls!

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on February 25, 2010 20 Comments
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Louise Beams, creator of the recycled milk bottle top eco pet bowl!

Louise Beams, creator of the recycled milk bottle top eco pet bowl!

Our guest post this week is from Louise Beams who has a creative reuse idea for milk bottle tops!

Louise is an entrepreneurial mum of two who enjoys keeping chickens and doing archery – but not at the same time of course!

Reuse and recycle

One day whilst doing my recycling I suddenly thought ‘why am I taking off these bottle tops and putting them in the bin?’ We have a separate recycling bin but on checking with the council I was told that the bottle tops were not currently recycled and that if I put them in the recycling bin they would be separated and sent to landfill.  Suddenly my creative side took over, I had always wanted to make my own range of products so maybe this was my chance to make something useful out of this waste!

Bottle tops into bowls

I started looking into the process of turning plastic bottle tops into useful new products, along the way we were faced with quite a few negative comments as the process of recycling bottle tops can be difficult.  One of the main issues is that bottle tops are made from different types of plastics that cannot easily be recycled together, sorting them is very time consuming and often not cost effective for recycling companies.  One recycling company even told me to give up on the idea as I would be wasting my time but that comment just made me more determined to make a success of things!

WRAP funding

I contacted a local injection moulding company for a chat and as luck had it the owner had also been looking into the bottle top recycling issue and gave me lots of helpful advice and support.  We had several ideas for useful things we could make from the recycled plastic and were also lucky enough to get a grant from WRAP to help with the protection of our new product designs, so our project was able to forward.

Meltdown eco pet bowl

Meltdown eco pet bowl

Collecting milk bottle tops

I must say it was a bit daunting when we realised one tonne of bottle tops was 200 sacks or more!  We wondered if we would even be able to get hold of that sort of quantity but so far things have gone well as we have been given lots of tops that people had previously collected for other schemes that have since discontinued.  We are also fortunate to have the support of a great team at our local community recycling centre who help to collect and sort the tops, we will also be making a donation to charity per tonne of tops that we can recycle into new products.

Meltdown eco pet bowls

Over a year later we have just produced our first Meltdown Eco Pet Bowls, we use local companies in Devon and Somerset for our manufacturing so we can definitely say our products are ‘Made In England’.  We are now looking for more retail outlets for our unique products and hope that the success of our Meltdown Eco Bowl will enable us to develop a whole range of useful and eco friendly recycled bottle top products.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the Meltdown Eco Pet Bowl or can contact us on meltdown AT btconnect DOT com or visit The Wild Store where we sell our bowls or Bottle Top Recycling to find out about donating plastic milk bottle tops for recycling.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (20)

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  1. Alea says:

    I too have felt bad about putting lids into the garbage can. This is a wonderful solution to that dilemma!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Recycled pet bowls. I love the idea but want to know how much energy was used to nibble them, and remelt them and make another item out of them. Have you done any research on that as part of your eco strategy ? I would really be interested to know

  3. angie says:

    Great idea and sure they will sell. Juat a question, sure it has been asked a 1000 times before, but why cant milk bottle tops just be cleaned and re-used as milk bottle tops…If a problem re heating to high temp causing plastic top to melt / distort, as bottle already sealed individuals could maybe have there own top…and be responsible for cleaning it themselves…get the picture …..

  4. Janet says:

    Can somebody tell me why the tops cannot be recycled with the plastic bottles, after all they have the same number on the bottles as the tops, just a different colour.

  5. Poppy says:

    @Janet: Diffemt councils have different rules on this Janet. My council say lids on, but a few miles down the road, it’s lids off!

    I dream of a time when there is just one set of rules for the whole country 🙂

  6. Ben says:

    @Janet: The numbers might mean the plastic monomers are the same, but they do not mean the finished material has the same properties and can be recycled in the same way.

    Aside from additives, for example colours, which vary a lot and affect what secondary products you could make from the plastics, the conditions the plastic was polymerised, that is converted from monomers to linked polymers has a great effect on the material’s properties. For example polystyrene, commonly thought of as just the white granular stuff used to make cups and packaging is also the same monomer used to make the thin hard glossy trays in many chocolate boxes and biscuit tins, as well as the clear covers on CD cases and audio tapes.

    One great difference in plastics, caused by additives and polymerising conditions is melting temperature. Some PET trays that ready meals come in can go in the oven at gas mark six, while if you tried this with a PET drinks bottle you’d quickly turn it in to a gooey mess. When you’re trying to reform plastics, different melting points could be a major problem.

    PET is perhaps not the best example as it’s polyester and unlike many plastics is not normally heat reformed in recycling, instead it’s a chemical process, but through everyday items PET does illustrate wide differences in melting temperatures of the same plastic due to polymerising them in a different manner. Most food trays are CPET. The C stands for crystalline and indicates that the molecular structure is different, in this case the monomers have more bonds to each other, and so this form retains its shape better at higher temperatures.

  7. Louise says:

    @Stephanie: Thank you for your comments, to answer some of your questions… Each local council seems to have a different way of dealing with the tops, our local ones don’t recycle them and any that are put in the recycling bin are removed and sent to landfill. They tell me that they may be able to recycle tops in the future but they will have to be sent to a special mixed plastics recycling facility in Kent about 250 miles away!
    As for just reusing the tops again as they are this would probably not be cost effective as all they different tops from different manufacturers and types of plastic would have to be sorted then sent to the appropriate companies for reuse, they would also need to be thouroughly cleaned/sterilised, this is likely to involve heat which may distort the tops and make them unuseable. Also this process would use a lot of energy, probably more than recycling.
    Re the energy used in the process I am working on some figures so that I can have this information to hand. We have ensured that we use local companies for all the processes even though some further afield were a bit cheaper we wanted keep our ‘bottle top miles’ to a minimum. Initially we were going to just use granulated bottle tops and not have them compounded (melted) too but this would have meant that we would have to add some other compounded material to the product so it would not be 100% recycled tops and this process would have also resulted in more waste from impurities in products. We decided to go for the full process enabling us to use more tops per bowl and reduce waste during manufacturing. When the tops are recycled there needs to be around a tonne at a time to make the machine operation viable so there is consideration given to the energy costs that the process uses, there are of course other considerations such as the amount of plastic we can divert from landfill too. It’s great to hear your comments.
    Louise

  8. Stephanie says:

    @Louise:
    Thanks Louise. I look forward to the research on the energy used by your manufacturer to transform them from one item to another.

    On another note (but also linked as it all ties in) I am looking for a supplier for 5 litre containers which have a pump on the top which disperses measured doses on liquid. In your research have you (or anyone) come across these manufacturers (solely of the container) and/or is there any direction you can point me in ? I live in Australia but need a UK/European manufacturer that conforms to all UK/EU regulations. We need clear containers so are the bottle tops able to become clear plastic or is that just impossible ? I know nothing about the processes that occur.

    I am happy to discuss this outside of this forum.

  9. Jane says:

    Smart and topical green but what happens when you mix coloured milk lids? Can you have mottled or does it just go a horrible sludgy colour? (I love the colours of the recycled plastic items made out of welly boots and mobile phone covers http://www.smile-plastics.co.uk/index.htm.)

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Hi Jane, that’s a great site isn’t it! So many amazing things on there.

  11. Poppy says:

    UPDATE!!!!

    Our council have now gone for lids off!! Aparently the lids on policy was causing problems when the bottles were bailed 🙁 However, they’ll still take the lids if they chucked in seperately 🙂

  12. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: Thanks for the update Poppy; I find the lids off approach weird because then you are transporting a lot of air. Wash and squash makes more sense to me …

  13. Poppy says:

    @Mrs Green:

    I agree and this point was made to the officer and she also agreed! Kerbside collection is being rolled out soon though and I believe they’ll have new lorries to do it with. Something about using the empty space over the top of the cans, bottles, papers and cardboard that is currently collected. I look forward to seeing how this works.

  14. Jane says:

    It’s funny that this point causes such a lot of angst and that some LAs fail miserably to clarify the situation while others are quite specific in their instructions and when there is a change (presumably due to progress in machinery/change in contract) just tell it to you straight. I know which I prefer.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: I learnt yesterday that when the bottles are picked up they are taken away and crushed. I pointed out that it would be better to have a crushed on site, so that we don’t have to transport the air.

  16. Louise says:

    @Jane: We had hoped to be able to have the ‘jazz’ effect in our products but because the bottle tops go through the compunding process it mixes them all together and produces a colour which may vary for each batch that we do. Mostly they will be a greeny blue colour as most of the tops are blue and green. We could have the recycled plastic coloured to a different colour but at the moment we don’t want to have anything added to the mix so that we can truly say it is 100% recycled bottletops.

  17. Jane says:

    @Louise: Just interested as if we are recycling one bit (and the milk ones are easy to squash) then it seems logical to be able to put the lids in too and for them to be sorted out later. However, if they can’t/don’t do this then why not do what you are doing. Congratulations! It took someone looking at it from the other side of the recycling fence to see and do this.

  18. Philippa says:

    Five years on and I wonder if this project is still going? I did spend quite a while searching online but couldn’t find new information. I had completely missed the fact that it was in Devon and I like the way that the local schools were collecting for it.

    I haven’t had an email for a while and only had a borrowed computer.

    • Mrs Green says:

      I’d love to catch up with Louise for the latest info – leave it with me, Philippa and I’ll see what I can do!

  19. and then louise, why not expand the product line to toys and educational tools to teach the future recyclers to enjoy the fruits of their budding conscience? go forward to the other end of the line and provide elder care homes with unbreakable implements, basins etc..to reflect upon their reduced-recycled and re-purposed lifestyles? just a thought or two, good works zero W friends!

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