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A bird figure made out of a recycled milk bottle hanging mid air with greenery in the background

How to recycle a milk carton into a beautiful bird

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?

 

What you’ll need:

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

Instructions:

  1. Give your milk bottle a really good rinse and peel off any labels.
A close up of someone using scissors to cut the bottom from a milk carton

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.  

A close up of a milk carton bottle and a hand using scissors to cut up the side of the carton

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.  

A close up of a milk carton and some hands using scissors to cut around the top opening of the carton

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.

A close up of a milk carton and a hand pushing through a cut piece of the carton through the open hole at the top

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.  

Two hands showing a milk carton where the top and bottom half have been separated

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.

A milk carton bottle on a table with the bottom cut off

7.

Repeat on the other side.

Two hands bending a milk carton

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.

Have fun making your own

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.

 

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