Want to create some unique, one-of-a-kind ornaments for your tree this Christmas season, and help the environment too? Keep reading to learn how to create your own special holiday ornaments made from recycled plastic.

Plastic Every Where

In our modern life of single-use, disposable products, plastic is everywhere. From our toothbrushes and bumpers of our cars to our take-out boxes and soft drink bottles, plastic is all around us in our everyday lives. According to the Green Dining Alliance, more than 300 million tons of plastic are manufactured each year and in the last decade, we have made more plastic than we did in the entire previous century.

Smiling woman carrying recycling bin
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By The Numbers

In an effort to remain eco-conscious, many of us recycle our plastic containers but not all plastics are created equal. Many of them won't even make it to actually be recycled. Plastics are categorized by numbers and are typically marked somewhere on the product. For example, your jug of laundry detergent is likely high-density polyethylene or Plastic #2. Polypropolene plastics or #5 Plastics are frequently used for large molded automobile parts, as well as things like yogurt containers. Then there is #6 plastics which are a type of polystyrene that is frequently used in food containers like you might find at a deli. According to Green Dining Alliance,

Foam items and #6 hard plastics also have very little value as a post-consumer commodity. There is not a strong buyer’s market to purchase sorted polystyrene from a recycling facility. They also have a higher melting temperature, adding to the cost of its recycling process.

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Creative Ways to Recycle #6 Plastic

So if #6 plastics likely won't be recycled, then how can we repurpose them? One creative way is to turn them into DIY Christmas ornaments. You may remember Shrinky Dinks when you were a kid. You colored in the cute designs with markers and then your grownup would pop them in the oven for you. Well, it turns out, #6 plastics make a great DIY shrink "paper."

How to DIY #6 Plastic Christmas Ornaments

All you need is some #6 plastic. Cut out the flat parts and get creative with some permanent markers. You'll want to use a hole punch to create a hole for a ribbon if you plan to hang these on your tree. Once your design is complete, lay it on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil and pop it into your oven to bake at 350 degrees - you can even use a toaster oven if you'd like. It won't take but a couple of minutes for your #6 plastic to shrink down in size. Once you remove it from the oven, and it has cooled, you can put a piece of ribbon through the hole you made before shrinking it. Watch the video below from the Cox Science Center and Aquarium for some tips on how to shrink your #6 plastic. Colored pencils also work well, but you'll want to spray the finished ornaments with a sealant like in this video.


Show Off Your Decorations

With a little bit of creativity, you could create some really amazing and fun ornaments. Play around with different shapes by tracing the outline of cookie cutters shaped like gingerbread men, stars, or Christmas trees and cut them out of your #6 plastic or make your own shapes inspired by vintage ornaments. You could even make personalized ornaments to give as gifts. The possibilities are really endless. If you don't have any #6 plastic just laying around, you can use disposable plastic cups like in this video, but it removes the recycle/repurpose aspect of the project.

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