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How to Recycle HDPE Plastic into Jewelry


HDPE stands for high density polyethylene. It is commonly used in many household products like milk jugs, shampoo bottle and bottle caps. They come in a variety of colors. HDPE is a good safe plastic for upcycled designs.

This basic HDPE plastic tutorial by Australian KirileeCosplay is literally a gem! HDPE can be safely melted (without turning it into a liquid) using a flat sandwich grill press.  It's important not to overdo things and burn the plastic which will not be a good thing due to potentially toxic fumes. 

Just be careful as it is very hot to handle - you can use thick work gloves rather than rubber gloves.  When it is in the silicone mold, press down  hard to eliminate any air bubbles.  I like the multi-color effect. Some crafters take hot pieces and twist them to get a marble effect. 

Kirilee uses scissors to trim the raw edges. I suggest also sanding with wet/dry sandpaper (400 grit) underwater for extra smoothness.  I don't find gloss sprays that shiny so consider using a thin layer of epoxy resin to finish up.  Drill a hole or add a glue on bail. 


No sandwich press? Here is an alternative method of melting HDPE in a toaster oven at about 180 deg C or 350 deg. F.  I love how Peter Brown uses what looks like an expensive but powerful Vitamix kitchen blender (did his wife know?) to quickly cut up the HDPE milk jugs and lids into small pieces. This will help melt the HDPE quickly.  

Hmm, I happen to have an old small food processor which is leaky - it will worth a try. Check out your local charity shop for something suitable.  Otherwise, just cut up the large items milk jugs by hand.  

If you go on to create a block or sheet of HDPE plastic, then you will need to use woodworking tools and techniques to make pendants, coasters and so on. 

Peter Brown is a geek with lots of woodworking tools. His channel is fun to watch because he has some quirky ideas and a sense of humor. 


Do people actually sell HDPE plastic jewelry?  That is a double yes for pro recyclers, Matt and Jonny  Brothers Make.  They make and sell all kinds of HDPE products - not just jewelry.   

They have scaled up their process to recycle on a larger scale as you can see from their video on how their Maori inspired pendant necklaces are made. They do wear respirators as they are melting more HDPE and also have to protect themselves the associated dust from their grinding machine. 



Here is good information on Plastic Safety if you are planning to recycle plastic. Some are not suitable for upcycling safely. 

Before You Go:

Disclosure 

This blog may contain affiliate links. I do receive a small fee for any products purchased through affiliate links. This goes towards the support of this blog and to provide resource information to readers. The opinions expressed are solely my own. They would be the same whether or not I receive any compensation. 
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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM 

3 comments:

  1. very interesting. I gotta wonder who had the thought, "I'm going to put these plastic caps in my sandwich press and see what happens..." lol!

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    Replies
    1. Necessity is always the mother of invention! People think, what do I have that can safely soften plastic caps....looks around the kitchen.....

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  2. I've had my bag of caps slowly getting bigger and bigger. One of these days - if I ever get back into my studio - I'm going to be pressing them!

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