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Reuse and recycle used soda bottles and cans

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Reuse and recycle used soda bottles and cans to rein in the amount of reusable waste entering landfills. Your efforts will also lessen the need for the energy-intensive production of plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans made from virgin materials.

How to recycle used soda bottles and cans

The existence of recycling programs and facilities in your community with play a big part in how you go about recycling your empties. The most common options include:

  • Curbside pick-up programs: If your community offers a curbside recycling program, use it. Nationwide, there are 9,000 curbside recycling programs and 500 recovered material facilities. Check with your local government or sanitation department to find recycling facilities available to you. Just be sure to follow their guidelines when preparing your weekly bin. Some require you to sort glass by color to maintain the quality of cullet.
  • Drop-off centers: If you don't receive curbside recycling, seek out a local recycling drop-off center, which you can find through Earth 911.
  • Bottle returns: Cart your spent cola cans and root beer bottles to a redemption center and/or return them directly to a retail store for a deposit refund. A handful of states have Bottle Bills, also known as beverage container deposit laws, that complement curbside and other recycling programs.
  • Multi-unit dwelling recycling program: If you live in an apartment or condo building without a designated area to dispose of recyclable items, be proactive and speak with your building's owner or superintendent about shoring up recycling efforts. And why not offer him or her a refreshing six-pack of natural soda to sweeten the deal?

How to reuse empty soda cans and bottles


Feeling crafty after that glass of ginger ale? Whether you prefer diet or regular, root beer or cream soda, giving a second life (functional or purely decorative) to spent bottles and cans in a creative fashion is a great green way to spruce up your home or apartment. Mosey on over to our craft idea picks for some inspiration:

Uncertain what to do with that pesky case of aluminum empties from the Memorial Day barbecue? Give them a second life as objects d'art. Tesscar Aluminum Craft offers detailed plans on how to construct your own Dr. Pepper butterfly or Tab Monster Truck. Also, check out the dizzying array of products made from recycled aluminum and PET soda bottles.

Recycling and reusing used soda bottles and cans helps you go green because…

  • By recycling, you ensure that aluminum cans and plastic bottles are steered clear of landfills. One billion pounds of PET bottles and 51.5 billion aluminum cans (two thirds containing soft drinks and juices) were recovered in 2004.[1]
  • The amount of energy and resources used to create aluminum cans and plastic bottles from recycled materials is less than the amount needed to create cans and bottles from virgin materials. Less energy means less pollution.

When not served from a fountain, soda is predominately packaged in and consumed from plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Aside from the taste debate (Do cans or PET bottles make for better-tasting soda?) there are also ecological considerations to ponder. Aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and old-fashioned glass bottles have their environmental benefits and drawbacks.

Pop bottles

Like aluminum, PET is composed from a natural source, oil-derived petroleum. Petroleum is a non-sustainable resource whose extraction and production has caused major environmental damage to soil, surface and ground waters, and local ecosystems, and contributes to global warming. However, in terms of overall detrimental eco-impact, the aluminum can trumps the plastic bottle. Despite requiring more petroleum, PET bottles require less energy to produce and are subject to a less complex supply chain than aluminum cans. And because a bottle can hold more liquid than a can, a single two-liter bottle of soda is responsible for around half the greenhouse gas emissions as that of 5.6 cans of soda. Aluminum cans are also heavier to transport, requiring more fuel.[2]

Plastic soda bottles are not biodegradable. When they end up as trash in landfills, they stay there for up to 700 years before beginning to decompose.[3] Recycling plastics also saves energy. One recycled plastic bottle conserves enough energy to power a light bulb for up to three hours.[4]

Soda cans

The process of converting bauxite (the source of aluminum that makes up 8 percent of the earth's crust) into aluminum is an energy-consuming one—requiring roughly 7.5 kilowatt hours for each pound of virgin aluminum. Open-cast mining of bauxite also leads to deforestation and destruction of ecosystems. On the plus side, aluminum is 100 percent recyclable, and creating new cans from old ones requires only 5 percent of the energy needed to produce virgin aluminum. In the United States, around 35 percent of aluminum products contain recycled aluminum.[5]

Although it's thought to have a heavier burden on the environment, soda sold in aluminum cans is more popular than PET-bottled pop. In 1999, 65 billion canned soft drinks were sold compared to 24 million units of plastic bottled soda.[6] Aluminum soft drink and beer cans accounted for 1.4 million tons of waste in 2005; 0.7 million tons were recovered for recycling.[7] Although aluminum cans represent only 1.4 percent of the total waste stream by weight, they contribute to 14 percent of the emissions embodied in 1 ton of landfill-bound waste.[6] The recycling of a single soda can saves enough energy to run a computer for up to three hours.[8]

Glass bottles of old

And for you old-fashioned soda sippers, a brief word about soft drinks in glass bottles: Compared to aluminum, the production of glass bottles is simpler and uses less energy. On the negative side, glass bottles are heavier than lightweight aluminum and plastic bottles and are more costly to transport. This means more fossil fuels are consumed and more pollution is generated.


  • cullet: Recycled glass that is crushed and refined at a recovered material facility. It is then sold to glass manufacturers and combined with sand, soda ash, and limestone to create new glass products.
  • PET (polyethylene terephthalate): Plastic polymer in the polyester family, mainly derived from petroleum and used by the chemical industry for bottles, textiles, and industrial moldings. Has a resin code of #1 for plastics recycling. One of the main plastics used by the beverage industry for plastic bottles for retail sale.

External links



Ohhh, love this site... I think I'm recycling since I was a little girl. Now I sell my reclycled stuff and enjoy a lot teaching.


Hi CanCrafts, I love your work! Good onya for saving the environment and making the world
more beautiful by creating art from what you recycle! We need more people like you!

To everyone else, I never throw anything away and my family call me a pack rat, or a hoarder. This is true, I'm guilty as charged, the way I see it...a stray piece of string I might not need today may well serve any number of needs in the future, so I keep the string and wait...and eventually, the same family members who tease me about my hoarding come to me asking if I might happen to have a piece of string and VIOLA!!! "Yes indeed, I do have a piece of string! I have several pieces of string, in a variety of lengths...just take whatever you need! ;)

I try to find a creative or helpful use out of everything that would otherwise be considered trash. I make my own SOY wax candles and you would be amazed how much "trash" I keep and reuse as molds and/or storage containers. The bottom half of a 2-liter soda bottle makes a very unique looking candle when used as a candle mold, as does an empty cardboard cigarette pack, and empty and well cleaned prescription medicine bottle(the lids make great checkers for children's gameboards or for holding beads or seeds while sorting through them), or empty soda or beer cans with the top cut off....all of them make great candle molds!

A tip for gardeners...You can cut the very bottom off a 2 liter soda bottle, remove the screw on lid, and stick the nose of the bottle down into the dirt beside your tomato or other plants in the veggie and/or herb garden. Fill it with water and the plant will then absorb water ONLY when needed. So you have an instant waterer that provides water when needed and you don't waste water from the hose by sprinkling areas that don't need extra water. If you REALLY want to save water, let the bathtub fill up while you take a shower, then collect the water from the tub to fill your 2 liter instant garden waterer with. Any detergents used during your bath/shower will be diluted enough to not harm a thing, and heck, the water's going to end up getting dirty anyway, so why not reuse the dirty bathwater!!! The 2 liter bottle watering system will also catch and reserve rain water for the plants to use whenever they need another drink. The Upturned bottles simply resupply the groundwater as needed...NATURALLY! If you don't like the idea of ugly upside down 2-liter bottles sticking up out of the ground, get creative and decorate them! You could get your children to help and let them decorate the bottles using some left over house paints you have stored in the basement that are just collecting dust or waiting to be tossed into a landfill! Seal the artwork with a clear acrylic or clear enamel sealer and VIOLA, instant yard art that is beautiful as well as functional, time saving, proactive, and saves on water too!

Need an extra pet feeding or watering dish, or bowls to use for a picnic basket that are lightweight and stackable, and can be reused over and over again? perhaps you need small bowls for your children's finger paints! Once again, just cut into a 2-liter soda bottle and convert the bottom of the bottle into any size bowl you need, be it deep or shallow. After cutting the bottle to the desired size you can then cover the sharp edges of the bowl with a beaded line of hot glue from your hot glue gun, or cover it by wrapping some duct tape around the sharp or jagged edge, being sure to wrap around the rim a few times in order to make a thick rim around your new bowl. You could even use some excess/left over door/window weather stripping glued into place. Those little bowls are great for a million uses and I dare everyone here to post your ideas for what you could do with your homemade 2 liter soda bottle bowls!

They also make great little planters for starting seedlings for the garden, or for small indoor or outdoor plants. After you set your seedlings into the ground, save the bowls to cover the little plants and keep them protected from frost, or use this method to serve as a miniature greenhouse or hot bed for younger plants that need a little more heat to help them along.

Fill a 2 liter bottle bowl into a hanging planter! Just pot whatever hanging plant you want, such as Fuschias or Spider Plants, then poke a few holes in the sides and hang them with some string or old wire coat hangers from the patio roof for a nice hanging plant container! Use them to sort children's small toys, such as legos, crayons, beads, or puzzle pieces. I discovered that an entire 2 liter soda bottle with just a small amount of the top cut off will hold every timber and rafter from a small set of Lincoln Logs after the original container was turned into an indian drum for a school art project!

After all, a 2-liter soda bottle IS A CONTAINER...right? So, after it's served it purpose containing soda, why not find other ways to reuse it for that very same purpose, to contain anything and evertything! if you cut the bottle in half the two halves will fit together again, one open end into the other open end to form a fantastic terrarium, a hermit crab habitat, or line it with fabric or felt and use it to store anything and everything from Baby's first shoes or first teddy bear, or a pair of heels or childrens shoes, or sandles/flip-flops/thongs or beach shoes. It's a nice way to store away summer shoes, protect them from damage, and keep them sparkling clean! They're also great to store baseball caps in and keep the bill properly curved to hold its shape...and don't forget, you can decorate the outside as well! You could line your closet shelves with them, either standing upright or lying down on their sides and stack them one atop the other. There is no end to the stuff you could safely protect and store within an empty, clean, recycled/reused 2 liter soda bottle! Just think of how many golf balls an empty 2 liter soda bottle could hold? You could even attach a handle to it, cut the bottom off and attach a handle to that end of the bottle, and then glue a spike into the nose end of the bottle, fill it with golf balls and while you're out practicing your game you just stick the spiked end into the ground and reach down for your next golf ball!

Cut off both the top and the bottom of the bottle and use the center cylinder for holding together that wound up heavy duty orange extension cord that's usually found lying around in the garage, barn, shed or basement, just waiting there on the ground for someone to trip over the tangled mess! Smaller bottles can hold smaller extension cords or even those pesky Christmas tree lights! Even cardboard toilet paper and paper towel rolls can be reused as extension cord holders, or soy wax candle making molds! Just use your imagination! The possibilities are endless!

Post here and let everyone know what you could do with an empty plastic 2 liter soda bottle! I'd love to see your ideas!


Great ideas to reuse soda bottles.

Allow me to share an idea about how to create amazingly inexpensive but very attractive soda bottle tomato planters.

As you can see from the link, these planters make excellent showpieces and are sure-fire conversation starters.

Please visit

for more information on how to make these planters.



While many people realize that recycling is good for the environment, the ones that act on it do it out of the goodness of their hearts. We have taken a slightly different approach to encourage people to recycle. We believe that there needs to be a stronger incentive for people to start recycling. And that incentive is being able to profit from recycling. So, we have created a website,, where people can make extra money by selling and by helping to sell, domestic recyclable items like soda cans, plastic/glass bottles, and others.


good article, I like to try precycling not even getting to the point of needing to recycle

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