Friday, March 16, 2012

101 Uses for Milk Jugs

We got quite the response to out last post “101 uses for Mushroom Boxes & Coffee Cans”, and a few of you who contacted us had some great questions and ideas. So, today I’d like to share with you all our philosophy about the Three Rs: reduce, recycle, reuse.

A lot of people today have a hard time figuring out how to achieve these things in their daily lives. But, the way I grew up we had no choice. It was reduce our expenses across the board, directly recycle everything we had into something new with our own hands, and reuse everything as many times as we could (until it died, at which point it was recycled), or starve. I actually find it somewhat humorous that nowadays living that way is considered ‘cool’. I’m all for it... except for the ‘or starve’ part. That just sucks.

To give you an idea of how much someone can get out of a single item lets take the average plastic gallon milk jug. We don’t have a milking cow, but we do have lots of kids, so this is something we end up with a lot of. We don’t save every single jug mind you, but we do tend to keep a running stock of empties. Those that we don’t keep are cleaned, crushed, and tossed into the recycling bin.

The ones we do keep are put to good use. They all get cleaned really well with soap and water. Or vinegar and water, depending on what we’re going to use it for. Some are saved for things like iced tea concentrate or homemade juice mixes. Since they were designed to go in the fridge in the first place they fit nicely, where some drink pitchers are a bit awkward.

We also use them for making things like liquid plant food, various cleaners, and soap solutions for around the home. They also make great watering jugs if you poke a bunch of holes in the lid. In this picture, Her Majesty demonstrates how this works.

Side note: Her Majesty is only mostly confined to her wheelchair. She does have some use in her legs, but cannot extend them fully. Still, to her doctor’s amazement, she learned to walk on her knees in smaller spaces, such as the greenhouse.  

Another way to reuse them is to use them as planting pots. I’ve actually seen quite a few people do this. You cut away the top front, leaving the handle, and poke good-sized drainage holes in the bottom. This is great for hardening off indoor sprouted seedlings before planting them outside, because the handles make all that moving around easier. You can also hang the pots by the handles on just about anything. Just this morning I saw a picture on Pinterest where someone filled them with spilling flowers and hung them on a fence. Brilliant!  We’re going to have to remember that one ourselves.

But, plastic milk jugs don’t last forever. So, what do you with them once you’re finished with their ‘resuse’ and it’s time to actually recycle them? You can either reuse them again if they’re still in good condition, or, if they’er not, break them down to become solids for soil building. The key here is to actually break them down chemically, or they’ll last forever. To do this you simply set them out in the sun for a while until they become brittle. The more sunlight the better. Once they get to the point where you can crush them into pieces with you bare hand they’re ready to go. Once they get to that point they will continue to break down in the soil. Da Man jokingly calls this the ‘jug half life’.

Severely brittle jugs can also be ground into powder and added to cement and other such things as a filler or texture.

This is the way we treat pretty much every materiel thin in our lives. We try not to overdo it on anything so we can reduce spending, then we reuse as many things as we can as many times as we can, before finally recycling it either directly or through the local recycling center. We apply this same process to everything from clothes and linens to plates, cups, and silverware to containers to just about anything else you can think of.

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