Recycle and (Creatively) Re-Use
Do you buy your milk and juice in cartons? Want to do something with the empty cartons other than tossing them into the trash? Sometimes your junk can be the raw material for creative projects.
We live in a time when we need to challenge ourselves to both reduce our consumption and recycle what we would otherwise throw away. But recycling is fun if you think about it as a way to creatively re-use the raw materials this planet has afforded us. With a little ingenuity, we can transform otherwise spent items into useful objects again.
Here are some ideas on what you can make with empty milk and juice cartons. Ready to get started?
All photos, except in the videos, are my own.
5 Things You Can Make With Recycled Milk Cartons
Clean your empty cartons thoroughly and you are ready to go.
1. Homemade Building Blocks
Open up the peaked tops of two clean, used milk or juice cartons. Fit one over the other so that the bottom shows at each end. You now have a surprisingly durable building block. Cover it with contact paper if you like. You can add more blocks to your collection as you drink more milk! Some people spend money buying pre-made cardboard blocks. Why not save your money and make your own cardboard blocks from your recycled milk cartons?
2. Bowling Pins
Stand up a few cartons to knock over with a ball. If you really want them to look fancy (realistic), cover them with contact paper and make numbers and dots on them with a marker.
3. Doll House
Cover your cartons with used paper grocery bags or used gift wrap then cut out windows and doors with an exacto knife (adults-only job). Decorate your house with markers. You could make a whole village using different sized milk and cream cartons.
4. Garden Planter
Cut the peaked top half off your carton and then carefully poke holes in its bottom. Fill with soil and plant some seeds according to the directions on your seed packet. Watch the seeds sprout and grow. Later you can transplant the seedlings in your garden or if the plants stay small enough, you can keep them on a sunny windowsill.
5. The Color Cube Game
See directions for this game below.
The Color Cube Game
I made this one up. It can be really fun! Use these colorful cubes to play so many different games.
You only need two milk cartons. Using the bottom edge of one carton as a measure, trace a line on the second carton so that your measured line is as high up on the carton as the carton is wide. (See the photos below.)
Cut with a knife along the trace line (a job for adults or older children with supervision only).
Measure and cut the same way with the other carton. You now have two shorter cartons.
Fit the open end of one into the open end of the other. You now have a cube.
Cover each surface with a different color construction paper.
- Measure six squares of construction paper to fit the carton surface;
- Glue each square to one of the surfaces of the cube;
- Tape along the edges to keep the construction paper from lifting off. (Electric tape or duct tape works the best.)
Optional: If you want your cube to have longevity, you can cover the whole thing with clear contact paper.
1. Measure one carton with the bottom of the other to get the right height.
2. Cut with a serrated knife.
3. Fit one carton over the other.
4. It helps to pinch the corners.
You now have a milk carton cube!
5. Measure and cut squares of brightly colored paper.
Color Cube Game Ideas
Use your finished cube as a giant die!
Here are some possible games you can play using the color cube:
- Take turns rolling the cube and naming the color. Find something in the room that matches it.
- If you're ambitious, make cards from the same colors of construction paper with actions to perform. The child rolls the cube, chooses a card of the same color, and does that activity (sing a song, say a nursery rhyme, hop on one foot, etc.)
- Use the cube at clean-up time. Roll the die and pick up and put away toys of that color.
- Use your imagination to make up another game using the color cube. (Please share your idea below!)
More Milk Carton Games
The first project gives clear, fun directions for building a lantern. You will have to help your child with these projects unless you have an ambitious teenager in the house.
A Halloween lantern project! The same principles can be used to make special lanterns for other times of year. Just change the decorations.
A scary face for your desk.
Milk Carton Windmill Project
This next project makes a windmill. Though the final result looks like a fun toy, the process is a bit complicated. Fortunately, the five videos below take you through it step-by-step.
You will probably have to help your child with this one, too. Good times ahead!
But I Buy My Milk in Plastic Milk Jugs! How Are They Recycled?
If your municipality recycles plastic milk jugs, hurray! Recycled plastic milk containers (HDPE) can be made into many products, including toys, furniture, and more. Here are some links to products made with recycled plastic #1.
Can a person reuse the jug before sending it to the recycle bin? Certainly!
I have seen people cut a plastic jug to make a dustpan for cleaning up messes. I've also seen homemade garden shovels using the handle side of the jug and cutting away some of the rest.
You can also make a game for tossing a ball back and forth using the handle and cutting the bottom off the jug. Using your imagination, I'll bet you could come up with more ideas.
Do You Have a Favourite Project?
Describe a project you like to make using recycled milk cartons. Or tell us which of the projects on this page you like the best.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Sheilamarie
What Do You Think About Recycling Milk Cartons? - Do You Have a Favorite Project Using Recycled Milk Cartons?
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on May 08, 2014:
@tazzytamar: I hope you get to try some of the ideas. Let me know when you do!
Anna from chichester on May 05, 2014:
These are all great ideas - I'm looking forward to doing some of these with my son when he's old enough
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on December 13, 2013:
@Kailua-KonaGirl: Thanks! I hope you get to use some.
KonaGirl from New York on November 27, 2013:
Great ideas for kids crafts
Shinichi Mine from Tokyo, Japan on August 24, 2013:
Great ideas! It's giving me ideas for my next lens. Thanks!
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on August 22, 2013:
@editionh: Thanks for your comment, EditionH. I guess we can reuse almost anything
when we let our imaginations loose.
editionh on August 22, 2013:
I am stunned. Incredible what you can do with these milk cartons. :).
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on June 28, 2013:
@dellgirl: You're welcome, dellgirl. I hope you get to try a project or two.
dellgirl on June 28, 2013:
This is really cool and such a good idea for a lens. Thanks for taking time to put this together and for sharing it.
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on June 27, 2013:
@Rhonda Lytle: Good point, poetvix. When I read your comment, I had a vision of my kids
when little drinking down their milk so they could use the empty carton for
a project. Double purpose teaching moment!
Rhonda Lytle from Deep in the heart of Dixie on June 26, 2013:
How awesome is this? Not only do the kids have crafty fun and help the planet, but it's a great motivator to get them to drink their milk. Too cool.
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on May 14, 2013:
@HSP Connections: I hope you enjoy making things with your grandkids! Come back and let us
know how it went. Have fun!
Peter Messerschmidt from Port Townsend, WA, USA on May 14, 2013:
This is cool-- good creative suggestions here. The recycling folks here don't actually accept "waxed paper" (i.e. milk cartons) in the paper or cardboard bin... and we have grandkids, so there are projects in the making, here!
kathysart on April 17, 2013:
I like the windmill idea. Love that people are into recycling.. yay.. save the planet.
Takkhis on February 28, 2013:
What a great idea you have! I am just amazed to see this lens. Blessed by takkhis :)
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on February 17, 2013:
@johnsja: Thank you, johnsja!
johnsja on February 15, 2013:
Great ideas. Thanks for sharing. Blessed.
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on February 09, 2013:
@Lynda Makara: Thanks for your comment and the blessing, Lynda.
Lynda Makara from California on February 09, 2013:
I like the windmill project. Very clever. Angel blessings.
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on February 08, 2013:
@getmoreinfo: Thanks, Get More Info!
getmoreinfo on February 07, 2013:
This Projects for Recycling Milk Cartons is really a cool idea.
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on February 07, 2013:
@anonymous: Nice to see you here again, too, Tipi!
anonymous on February 06, 2013:
Its fun to stop by here again and be reminded of all the things I can do with those milk cartoons.
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on February 04, 2013:
@WriterJanis2: I agree. It's wonderful to be able to reuse something like a milk carton.
WriterJanis2 on February 03, 2013:
Milk cartons can make great crafts.
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on January 16, 2013:
@myspace9: Myspace9, milk in bags can only be found in Ontario and Quebec, as far as I
know. I used to buy my milk that way when I lived in Quebec. I used to
reuse the bags for many things, too. They are so strong.
myspace9 on January 16, 2013:
Very interesting and informative lens. I don't use milk cartons, instead of that I bring big bag with three packets. Thanks.
tomzi123 lm on January 05, 2013:
Very great idea. Thank you for sharing.
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on January 03, 2013:
@Lee Hansen: Great ideas for reusing milk cartons, Pastiche!
Lee Hansen from Vermont on December 17, 2012:
I use my cartons for planting seeds in the spring. I've also got a pattern to make a little change purse from a milk carton. Now I need to find some time for crafting.
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on November 23, 2012:
@aesta1: Wow! I've seen some of those purses (I don't remember where they were made). Thanks for reminding me. They were great!
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 23, 2012:
In Phnom Pehn they make beautiful purses and bags from milk and juice cartons so most of us leave our cartons in front of the store at a cart they have provided.
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on November 14, 2012:
@LouisaDembul: Perfect idea, too!
LouisaDembul on November 14, 2012:
I recycle milk cartons by using them as flower pots. Perfect size!
anonymous on September 19, 2012:
msseiboi on August 20, 2012:
What a great idea...
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on August 20, 2012:
@BuckHawkcenter: Thanks, Buckhawk. And thanks for the blessing. I hope you have fun with your granddaughter!
BuckHawkcenter on August 20, 2012:
Great projects for recycling milk cartons. This looks like a fun thing I can do with my granddaughter.
SailingPassion LM on June 19, 2012:
Lots of fun for the children :-)
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on June 10, 2012:
@anonymous: I think you are talking about clear contact paper. You can cover the sides of the cube with cut-to-size squares of contact paper.
It sounds like another great project! Thanks for sharing it.
anonymous on May 27, 2012:
I once saw a milk carton used to make a photo cube and want to do this as an end of the year project with my children. I think it would be a nice keep sake for their parents. I can not remember the clear element put over the pictures but you get the idea.
Sher Ritchie on May 05, 2012:
There's one on my lens about celebrating choc chip cookies - glue a new label on the carton and it becomes a milk-carton chocolate chip cookie carrier. Milk & cookies go perfectly together - the templates are on my lens: http://www.squidoo.com/national-chocolate-chip-coo... I love your lens; thanks for sharing!
Brandi from Maryland on March 17, 2012:
Tons of great projects here! :)
Angela F from Seattle, WA on February 14, 2012:
Great recycling lens - added as a feature on my Beyond Bottles and Cans
anonymous on December 15, 2011:
Thanks for sharing , and this is woven tissue box cover from milk carton.
Milk carton bag
anonymous on November 17, 2011:
Hey I have reviewed your squidoo lens and I really liked it. Because of this I went ahead and âlikeâ you on squidoo. Giving your lens another like.
When you have time, please take a look at my lens. It is located at
If you like my lens, please add a like to my lens as well. I am new to squidoo and I would appreciate any comments at all.
yayas on October 28, 2011:
We turned our recycled milk cartons into garden ducks. By cutting the bottles just right, the wind whistles through the tops an' helps keep the animals away from the garden. You should hear the spooky sounds that come through the tops of the milk bottles.
KingLobster LM on October 27, 2011:
There is certainly a lot more that one can do with milk cartons than I would have ever realized. Unfortunately, I am not a handy one by any means. I do not think that I could attempt to even build on of these if I wanted to. Just had to visit this lens after writing one on chocolate milk. lol. Anyway, great work!
MintySea on October 22, 2011:
very cool ideas
Kokoluvver on October 21, 2011:
Nice lens! Very helpful!
Aquavel on October 16, 2011:
My favorite project is building gingerbread or graham cracker houses and villages with milk cartons along with some of those small cereal boxes, like the ones from cereal variety packs. This project is actually a holiday variation on your "castle." Put the boxes together and cover them with graham crackers ("glued" on with hard icing.) "Paint" them with more icing and decorate them with candy. The tops of the cartons make the perfect rooftops and the large cartons provide focus and make awesome clock towers, rooftops, and/or steeples. ~ Love the castle, lantern and windmill projects! Great lens!
anonymous on October 08, 2011:
great showcase in what can be made using milk cartons, very original lens and I gave you a 'thumbs up'.
JoshK47 on October 04, 2011:
I love things like this - after all, it's far more fun to make something instead of sending it off the the recycling plant!
Jeanette from Australia on September 24, 2011:
Returning to give a lttle angel blessing and let you know this lens has been added to my Upcycling Ideas lens.
LadyJasmine LM on August 26, 2011:
Just so you know I enjoyed your lens, so I blessed it and featured it here: https://hubpages.com/education/back-to-school-bles
bangcool on August 12, 2011:
Great lens, need great creativity and ideas to make some new goods from recicle one
Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on August 11, 2011:
Very creative uses for what most people would simply throw away. *Blessed by angel on the Back to School Bus Trip*
fajack on July 13, 2011:
great lens , keep up the good work
Runnn on June 24, 2011:
Thanks for raising awareness on recycling.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 21, 2011:
This is really very creative and resourceful. I usually bring my empties to a store that makes bags out of these milk and juice cartons.
Jerrad28 on June 14, 2011:
Very creative! Thanks :)
CherylsArt on May 08, 2011:
When I was in high school, we used milk cut off milk cartons to pour plaster of paris in. Once dried, we got to carve sculptures out of it. I still have one of my sculptures.
TheresaMarkham on April 14, 2011:
When all else fails (or, after all else has been done to it), there's always the compost pile!
Anahid LM on April 06, 2011:
Hi it is good idea to use as planting seeds, also the bowling pins. All the best. Anna
Anahid LM on April 06, 2011:
hi great idea to use it as planting seds or bowling pins. All the best. Anna
Francis Luxford from United Kingdom on March 18, 2011:
These are great ideas! Fantastic lens.
Dinostore on March 10, 2011:
This is a great lens--such a wonderful purpose! Thumbs up and fav'd.
kguru1979 lm on March 04, 2011:
This is a marvelous invention and fantastic ... good...
anonymous on February 07, 2011:
What fantastic ideas! When we put our minds to it, we really can make a difference!
RuthieDenise on January 19, 2011:
These are cute ideas. I will have to tell my daughter.
Annamadagan on January 19, 2011:
Blessed By A Squid Angel.
anonymous on January 19, 2011:
Great ideas and something anyone can do with your directions. I love the idea for building blocks!
Lisa Auch from Scotland on January 13, 2011:
What fantastic ideas! so simple effective and cool for the kids!
Lee Hansen from Vermont on December 31, 2010:
Working on the building blocks for my grandkids to enjoy at our vacation home.
anonymous on December 09, 2010:
I like the milk cube, so simple and yet fun to make too for kids.
Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on December 09, 2010:
Great suggestions! I didn't even realize we could still get milk in cardboard/paper cartons.
DecoratingEvents on December 08, 2010:
You are very creative and green!
happynutritionist on December 06, 2010:
This is GREAT! Must lensroll to my soap pieces page, and be sure I try some of the suggestions here:-)
hlkljgk from Western Mass on December 05, 2010:
great ideas - thanks
nicoleacosta1 on December 03, 2010:
Now my kids and I have something fun to do with our milk cartons! Thanks for sharing this.
Sue Mah from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on December 02, 2010:
What a fun way of recycling used milk cartons. Very good and clear instructions.
Cynthia Arre from Quezon City on November 28, 2010:
What a fun recycling project! Loved the use of step by step photos and the clear instructions. ~Blessed~
norma-holt on November 27, 2010:
Great ideas here. Featured on Parenting Young Children
mikerbowman on November 26, 2010:
How fun! I want to try to make a mile carton lantern...
MargoPArrowsmith on November 12, 2010:
Senora M on November 11, 2010:
Cool. Good thought! I'm trying to figure out what to do with my used baby food jars. I have a ton!!
Barbara Isbill from New Market Tn 37820 on October 25, 2010:
Loved this lens! We use our milk cartons to freeze fish. My dad fishes 3-4 times a week and we save the cartons which work perfectly.
poutine on October 08, 2010:
added to the following lens:
poutine on October 08, 2010:
Fun ideas here. Should help keep the kiddies busy for a while.
Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on October 04, 2010:
Great milk carton ideas.
jlshernandez on September 28, 2010:
I made a periscope once with a milk carton to see who has been taking the cookies from across the cubicle at work.
Angela F from Seattle, WA on September 21, 2010:
Great craft ideas - and lensrolled to my Recycling lens :)
Jeanette from Australia on September 18, 2010:
Some useful and fun ideas here. Well done. The seed planters would be useful for me :-)
nukemdomis lm on September 15, 2010:
The garden planter looks like a quick and easy project. I might have to give that idea a closer look.
Bellezza-Decor from Canada on September 10, 2010:
I like the windmill milk carton. I think it's important kids learn to make things, anything.
anonymous on August 26, 2010:
I like the color game.
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on August 09, 2010:
I love these creative ideas. Recycling items that can be used for games and for education is so rewarding and fun!
Sheilamarie (author) from British Columbia on May 04, 2010:
Thank you, CherylK. I'll have to post some photos (after I take them, of course!).
I usually use the half gallon size, but you could use another size if that's what you have.
Good luck -- I hope your grandchildren enjoy the game.
Cheryl Kohan from England on May 03, 2010:
This is a very nice lens...I like your ideas. These would be fun to do with my grandchildren! Do you have any pictures illustrating how to make the color game? What size cartons do you use for that? I like to use milk cartons to plant seeds indoors before planting season. They have lots of room in them and they're waterproof!