How to recycle a milk carton into a beautiful bird

August 18, 2012
Author: Hannah

Turn a plastic milk carton into an intriguing hanging bird. This recycled art activity is a great kids’ craft idea for a rainy day. Why not make lots and turn them into a mobile or race them in the garden?

Bird made out of a milk carton, hanging in a bush

What you’ll need:

  • A pair of scissors.
  • An empty 2-litre milk carton


1. Give your milk bottle a really good rinse and peel off any labels.

2. Put the bottle on a hard surface, like the floor or a table, and poke your scissors into the bottle near the bottom. Once your scissors are in, cut all the way around to remove the bottom section.

Hand cutting the base off the milk carton using scissors

3. On the opposite side from the handle, you’ll find a seam, which you should cut all the way up until you get to the 2-litre mark.

Hand cutting up the seam of the milk bottle using scissors

4. This step is where you make the beak of the bird. Starting at the top end of the seam, cut a curve around each side of the bottle neck towards the top – but don’t cut right through. Draw a line first if it helps.

Hand cutting the beak for the bird in the milk bottle with a pair of scissors

5. Next, push the new beak ‘flap’ inside the neck of the bottle and up through the hole (where the milk usually comes out). You may need to bend and push and wiggle it up.

Hand creating the beak of the bird in the milk bottle

6. Now for the wings and tail. Hold the bottle in a horizontal position, with the handle at the bottom.

Starting a couple of centimetres in from the side, cut a curve round and up towards the handle, then round and down until you reach the bottom end of the seam cut you made in step 3.

You can discard the piece of plastic you’ve just cut out.

Hand holding the cut milk bottle

7. Repeat on the other side.

Milk bottle cut into the shape of a body of a bird

8. Here’s the best bit. Holding the bottle in a horizontal position again with the handle at the bottom, bend the pointed wing you’ve just created outwards and downwards.

You’re essentially turning part of the bottle inside out, creating shoulders and shaped wings. 

Repeat on the other side, and all of a sudden you should have a milk bottle bird.

Hand bending the milk bottle into wing shapes

You can cut different tail shapes, wings and beaks, paint them, stick on eyes, put them on sticks, hang them from trees, make a mobile, fill them with fat balls to turn them into bird feeders… The possibilities are endless.

Plastic recycling facts
Did you know?

  • Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose.
  • 275,000 tonnes of plastic are used each year in the UK. That’s about 15 million bottles per day.
  • Most families throw away about 40kg of plastic a year, which could be recycled.

We’d love to see your flights of fancy so share your birds with us on Facebook or Twitter.

With thanks to the talented Kirsti Davies, who has taught many a person to make these birds at Eden.

Art, Recycling and waste
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11 responses to How to recycle a milk carton into a beautiful bird

  1. nikki says:

    They’re fantastic!! I’m going to have a word with our school art department and see if we can’t make a huge mobile with our school plastic .. Thankyou so much for this facebook post!!

  2. tony says:

    most fun i`ve had on a sunday morning for a long time.I`m going to make more.& get the kids to paint them.Photos soon I hope.

  3. Pauline Horsham says:

    Have just made the “birds” with my 4 year old grandaughter they are now flying in my garden -as well as having fun making them they look good

  4. Hannah Dash says:

    They’re lovely, we make Elephants from the 4 pint plastic milk bottle, Clean your bottle well, remove labels. cut the TOP third of the bottle off (this is the part you use). Trim off the lip where the lid screws on. Now cover the whole thing in 2 – 3 layers of papier mashe (using flour and water paste!) taking care to keep the handle separate to the main body as this will become the trunk. When dry paint grey (or any other colour you fancy!) Attach ears and tail, use a pen to draw on eyes, and if you want to add a few plastic gems or sequins! Beautiful indian elephants! Hope the description makes sense!!!!! x We use a piece of sting for the tail which we knot and fray out the end of.

  5. Angelina Rossetti says:

    Just finished my second attempt, and pleased with the out come. Guess you dont have to be young to enjoy such things.
    Aged 39 lol.

  6. Kareem says:

    The snack and soft drinks cnapmoy will use raw materials such as switch grass, pine bark and corn husks, converting them into polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which is the plastic material used to produce the majority of bottles. So wait, they’re taking biodegradable and compostable materials, and converting them into non-biodegradable, non-compostable bottles, creating more trash? How is this a good thing?

  7. jane says:

    try this guys

    These cute little sock monsters are great for storing your missing socks and things you pull out of pockets before washing clothes.

    What you will need:

    Plastic milk jug

    Craft Foam

    Low Temp Mini Glue Gun


    Acrylic paint

    Googly eyes

    Feather boa


    How to make:

    1. Wash out and let your milk jugs dry.

    2. Cut a hole in the jug on the two sides opposite the handle of the jug for the mouth.

    3. Spray paint or use acrylic paint to paint the entire jug.

    4. Glue a piece of feather boa to the lid of the jug for hair.

    5. Cut feet, arms, teeth and horns from craft foam and glue to the jug as shown.

    6. To finish glue on googly eyes.

  8. Shani Broome says:

    Thanks for sending me the instructions, we now have a collection of “seagulls” on display at Ipplepen School. Next time we are going to try them with tissue paper for feathers and paint them.

  9. Hannah says:

    Great to hear it!

  10. Mags Burrows says:

    Have had great fun making these for the grandkids and family and friends. Every time a milk bottle is empty we are waiting to make another eco bird. They are on the garden canes to stop you poking yourself in the eye, hanging from the hanging baskets hooks and even perched on top. we even pin them on the fence. We even made them when we went camping and the lady with the mobile home has one for hanging from her awning, how great is that :-)

  11. callum says:

    thanks a lot, great help for a art project to make recycled material in to birds for my Btec task the green planet.

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