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  • Writer's pictureJenna Granger

Upcycled Milk Jugs

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

Reduce single use plastics! Make your own reusable lunch container.

Grade Level:

3rd-12th (younger students can complete with adult support)


Environmental Science

  • Plastic Pollution

  • Human Impacts

Tools & Materials

  • Plastic Gallon Jug (from milk, juice or water)...empty & rinsed

  • Scissors

  • Pens (sharpies are ideal) or stickers (optional)

To Do & Notice

1. Watch this how-to-video created by one of our Envirolution Club Students: Upcycled Milk Jug Container.

Helpful hints & tips for success:

  • “Kid” scissors often are not sharp or strong enough for this type of cutting. Larger crafting or fabric scissors are recommended. BE CAREFUL!

  • Many of the cuts you will be making are along the seams of the milk jug. Look closely to find these seams.

  • Try your best to make smooth, single cuts so your edges don’t become jagged and sharp.

  • Don’t have a gallon milk jug?? Ask your friends, family or neighbors to save theirs for you. Many coffee shops will also set theirs aside for you too. Please remember to prevent the spread of germs. Follow Center for Disease Control guidelines for safe handling and cleaning & disinfecting.

2. Use your upcycled milk jug container to pack your lunch (or to organize your art supplies or other small items). When possible, use your upcycled milk jug container as a conversation starter to let people know about the problem with single-use plastics (see the facts below) and why you are choosing reusable.

What’s Going On

What is Upcycling?

  • Upcycling is the creative reuse of discarded objects or material to create a new product. In this project we are able to upcycle a plastic gallon milk jug into a reusable lunch container. This helps divert waste (the gallon milk jug) from the landfill and also helps reduce our need for single-use plastic lunch containers….like plastic baggies.

What plastics are recyclable in our region?

  • Plastics #1 & #2 (hard crunchable plastics like milk jugs and bottles) are the only plastics that can be recycled through curbside pickup.

  • Plastic #4 (plastic film like plastic bags & baggies) cannot be recycled through the curbside recycling program.

Can plastic bags & baggies be recycled?

  • Plastic film can be recycled through special plastic film recycling programs. Many local grocery stores have plastic film drop-off locations. Visit Keep Truckee Green to learn more about plastic bag recycling in our area.

The problem with plastic baggies:

  • Plastic baggies are a common type of single-use plastic. In fact, the average American family uses 500 Ziploc bags every year.

  • Plastic production contributes to planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Left alone, plastics don’t really break down; they just break up. Over time, sun and heat slowly turn plastics into smaller and smaller pieces until they eventually become what are known as microplastics.

  • Microplastics are found in our streams, waterways and even in our snowpack.

  • Plastics (and microplastics) are harmful to wildlife who ingest plastics mistaking it for food. Plastics also threaten wildlife who become entangled in it.

You can take action! Here are a few ways you can reduce plastic pollution:

  • Choose to REFUSE!

    • Say “no thank you” to plastic bags, plastic baggies, plastic wrap and other single use plastic items.

  • Go with REUSABLES!

    • Bring your reusable container (like the one you just made), reusable bottle, reusable cutlery, reusable bags with you everywhere you go.

    • If you have a plastic baggie, wash and reuse it!



Check out these tips for living with less plastic:

Going Further

More fun ways to upcycle your milk jugs:

Thanks to our partners at Town of Truckee

for supporting student’s science & sustainability learning activities.

Please review SWEP's Terms of Use prior to using this resource.

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