*The following can be dangerous, and potentially toxic. Please use every precaution, and make sure that you have parental supervision. Be sure to wear safety gear, and make sure you are being careful with anything hot. Plastics may outgas toxic fumes, so make sure you use an oven that does not usually heat up food products. In general, please be very careful when considering doing this project.
As of today, there are only 7 days left until Christmas! I always love getting out the Christmas tree, and decorating it. However, in these years, I’ve noticed that right after Christmas, some disposable plastics go right from the tree, and into the recycling can, such as candy-cane wrapper, and tinsel.
However, Christmas ornaments don’t have to be a drain on the environment! There are ways to create ornaments that are made out of reusable plastics!
- Sheet of aluminum
- Discarded toaster oven
- HDPE plastics
- Flat-head screwdriver
Before you even start doing anything, first preheat the toaster oven, or some other form of electric grill (with a very hot, resistive heating element in it) to ~400°F.
The best type of plastic to use for creating ornaments, is HDPE, or #2. HDPE is commonly found in water bottles, plastic bags, and milk jugs. This is because HDPE has the lowest melting point, fully melting between 300 – 400°F. Make sure that the HDPE is actually melting, and not just getting tacky, which is what will happen from 266 – 300°F.
Arrange the plastics into whatever shape you like, on a sheet of aluminum. The aluminum sheet will make sure that, when the plastics are being melted, that the temperature is even, so one part isn’t melted before another. Make sure that the pieces are close enough, so that when they are melting, they will stick together.
Then, once you are done, use a pair of tongs to move the sheet of aluminum into the toaster oven. Make sure the temperature is around 300 – 400°F, by verifying with an infrared thermometer. At any lower temperatures, while it will be possible to mold the plastic, it isn’t hot enough to fully melt. Be careful to not burn your hands!
After a while, when the plastics have melted, use a pair of tongs to remove the plastic pieces. To cool the plastic down, run it under cold water, slowly.
Then, take a flat-head screwdriver, and try to pry the ornament off the sheet of aluminum. If any pieces have disconnected at this point, use a hot glue gun to stick it back together. Take a drill, and make a small hole at the top, to thread some string through.
Ta da! Now you have recycled old pieces of plastics to make these ornaments! This process doesn’t just have to be limited to just making ornaments — you could use this process to create a bunch of things as well!