Thursday, August 12, 2010

Upcycle Your #6 Plastic!

Today I am going to share with you a neat craft project I found on the interwebs a few years ago. You know the clear plastic lids from the goodies you get at your store bakery? From pre-cut salad and fruit trays? Strawberry cartons? Look for the tiny triangular recycling symbol, save the #6 ones, and come along with me.

I have chosen the lid from a 13x9 cinnamon roll tray. You are going to need a baking sheet, parchment paper, a hole puncher (making holes is optional), scissors, permanent markers, and your imagination. To maximize how much you can make with one lid, you'll want to soak any labels, and as gently as possible, remove adhesive with rubbing alcohol or Goo-Gone.
I took a round lid from one of my bead containers and used it to draw six 2.5 inch circles on the #6 lid with a black Sharpie marker. (I cut off and discarded the ridged sides of the lid). You can cut out any shape you like, but shapes with protruding edges, like stars and diamonds, will curl up in the oven (we'll get to that), and you will wind up with a completely different shape. I made a peace sign once, which came out great. Another time, my brother and I experimented with the side of a foggy-clear #6 drinking cup, and it resulted in what looked like a white seashell.
So I started with these discs, and punched holes in the tops. On the last two my puncher started getting dull. Drat!

 I made different designs on each pair with some sharpie markers, doing one color on each side of the plastic. Red/orange, Green/Teal, Magenta/Purple. If you want to use colored pencil, roughen the surface of the plastic with sandpaper first. What will happen when I put these in the oven, is that they will shrink and thicken, and all the color will be condensed. In the case of the colored pencil method, the abrasions will make the result white underneath the pigment, instead of clear. Now these are on a parchment lined baking sheet, and ready for the 300 degree oven. They will only bake for about 5 minutes.

The result?

 They shrunk to less than half their original size. What's weird is that each pair kind of distorted the same way. Both greens bowled up, but the orange-reds stayed almost flat. The color discrepancy you see is just the difference between the lighting in my kitchen and my photo lamp, which is white light.                                                    

                                                                                  It's fun not knowing exactly what you're going to get! The possibilities of different kinds of doo-dads you can make are endless, as well. For these, I was thinking earrings:

So, in the end we have a great project, that while far from perfect, is fun to play with, and keeps some plastic out of the trash can. Now I'm thinking about Christmas tree ornaments and refrigerator magnets. How about you? Send me photos of your #6 creations, I'd love it-And leave a comment if you enjoyed this post. Happy Crafting, cheers!


  1. Nossa!
    Que legais suas jóias recicladas!
    Você tem muita criatividade e expressa bem em sua peças!


  2. I speak Mexican Spanish, so I can figure out most of that =D Thanks!

  3. I remember trying this technique a couple years back … though I must say nothing I made came out nearly as cool as your earrings. Nice!

  4. thanks for sharing this !! I remember using shrink art as a kid and had no idea I could use free plastic to create the same type of art !!
    I can't wait to try ! Your pieces are great !!

  5. @timetobeme
    thank you! So now, months later, I have made many more of these, better, and listed them in my Artfire shop. There has been some frustration with getting pairs to shrink to the same size and shape. One solution is to shrink them blank, pair them up after, and then design with liquid inks or other stuff. (Sharpie looks best shrunk-on). I now have polyurethane gloss so I can use this method with acrylic paints and then seal it in.