Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Practical tips for reusing plastic containers while RVing

I love discovering ideas that help keep plastic containers out of landfills. Here are some tips for upcycling your jugs, empty milk, juice, soda, and water bottles.

Note: For any project, you’ll want to begin with a clean, empty jug. Use warm, sudsy water to thoroughly clean the inside of the jug you plan to use. Rinse well. Also, make sure the cap is completely clean. That way, you won’t have to deal with any sour smell or sticky residue. Remember, the edges of cut plastic can be sharp. Glue seam binding or apply painter’s tape over the sharp edges to prevent cuts.

Inside your RV

  • Herb growing. Remove the bottom 2/3 portion from half-gallon plastic containers and use them for growing herbs inside your RV. Fill the containers with potting soil and plant the seeds. I place our herb containers on the RV’s dining table to catch the sunlight coming through the window. You can also transform a plastic container into a watering can. Heat the end of a sewing needle over a flame. Then use the needle to poke a hole into the lid of the bottle. After making several holes this way, fill the jug with water, replaced the cap, and use it to water the herbs and other plants.
Photo credit:
  • Furniture slides. We rarely move furniture around inside our RV, but if we have overnight guests, a few items need to be scooted out of the way. To protect our RV’s floors when moving heavy furniture, I keep four upcycled “furniture slides” inside our toolbox. Here’s how to make the “slides”: Cut off the bottom couple inches from four plastic milk jugs. Slip the resulting pieces over the furniture feet. The plastic protects the floor from scratches and helps the furniture move easily over the carpet, too. The four “jug sliders” nest together and weigh very little, so they’re perfect for this RV task.
  • Vase. Rather than pack along a breakable glass vase when traveling, cut the top off an individual water bottle. Put rocks inside the vase to keep it steady, and then fill it with water. A single flower or two fits perfectly and helps add cheer to an RV interior.
  • Mini greenhouse. Another way to upcycle plastic jugs is to make germination boxes or mini greenhouses to grow seedlings. Use a box cutter to cut the top off the jug. I usually make the cut about halfway up the jug and cut only 3/4 of the way around. That way, I have about two inches of depth in the bottom of the jug for potting mix and also have a “lid” to assist with the greenhouse-type germination. By starting seeds in this way, I give our stix-n-brix home garden a head start to the growing season.
  • Scoop. Cut a plastic jug as shown in this video. Use it to scoop dog food, potting soil, etc.
  • Art supply keeper. I keep the grandkids’ art supplies inside plastic water bottles. They work well for corralling colored pencils, watercolor paint brushes, pens, and more. Just slip them inside for storage and shake ’em out to use.
  • Spout extender. When little ones RV with us, I use this upcycled bottle trick to help them reach the water to wash their hands.
Use a plastic container to help funnel sink water
Photo credit: LifeHack
  • Desk organizers. Cut the bottom off several differently-sized plastic bottles. Use the resulting containers to keep paper clips, push pins, glue sticks, and other desk supplies neatly stored. I slip the containers into a drawer on travel days. Hint: This idea also works for small crafting supplies.
  • Bank. All year long, we collect coins in an upcycled juice bottle. When summertime rolls around, the grandkids use the coins at the campground’s little store to buy ice cream or other treats. (Bonus: They get to practice coin identification and counting skills.)

Outside the RV

  • Bird feeder. Cut two holes in opposing sides of a two-liter soda bottle. Push a wooden spoon through both holes so that the spoon extends outside the bottle on either side. Fill the bottle with birdseed and replace the cap. Tie a string around the neck of the bottle to hang it from a nearby tree or the RV’s awning brace.
  • Insect trap. Cut the top 1/3 portion off a two-liter soda bottle. Pour a bit of sugar water or soda in the bottom part of the bottle. Remove the cap from the top. Turn the top upside down and place it inside the bottom half of the container. Bees and other insects will be attracted to the liquid but have difficulty finding their way out of the trap.
  • Clothesline/twine storage. You’ll need a plastic jug that is just a bit bigger than your ball of twine or string. I used a half-gallon milk jug. Cut off the bottom third of the jug and place the ball of twine inside it. Thread the end of the twine through the top of the jug’s opening and use duct tape to fasten the top and bottom jug pieces together. Cut an ‘x’ in the cap of the jug and thread the twine through it. (This will hold the twine and prevent it from falling back inside the container.)
  • Cooler ice. We freeze water inside a variety of plastic containers (gallon water jugs, individual soda bottles, etc.). When we want to take a picnic to the beach or elsewhere, we pop one or more of our “homemade ice packs” into the cooler. The ice keeps food cold without making a watery mess inside the cooler.
  • Funnel. Remove the top from a two-liter soda bottle and use it as a funnel.
  • Bike and scooter light. Check out this idea. I’m eager to make these with our grandkids so they can light the way with their scooters and other toys.

I’m sure there are many other ways to upcycle plastic bottles and jugs. If you want to add an idea, please use the comments below.


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



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Neal Davis (@guest_240417)
5 months ago

Thank you, Gail! 🙂

DW/ND (@guest_240408)
5 months ago

We recycle everything we can. I repurpose everything I can! As a brief example, in addition to some of the article notes, I use Swiffer boxes (the smaller ones) in our motor home for lst aid materials – complete set with clear lid too. I also use a Swiffer box in my utility bay to hold vinyl gloves. Both boxes are held on the wall with Velcro tape. (I also use Swiffer boxes on my workbench for small items of a miscellaneous nature – like tie wraps, etc.)

I also recycle ketchup bottles. Remove the labels. Fill with distilled water. They have a 1/4″ hole in the lid. Insert a 1/4″ plastic tube, use for filling battery cells – simply push the tube down into the water, squeeze the bottle gently. When finished, to avoid spills, pull the tube above the water line. (Last about 3 years!). Photo’s available.

DW/ND (@guest_240409)
5 months ago
Reply to  DW/ND

Also, I just rewired my brake/tail lite assy due to mice eating the wire insulation and socket base – the new socket assy was slightly loose – I used the security ring from a plastic bottle to fill the gap – walla – tight fit! (The ring is the little thing attached at the bottom of the water bottle cap! Fun to solve two problems at once – loose fit and recycle plastic!

Gail (@guest_240619)
5 months ago
Reply to  DW/ND


Susan B. (@guest_240392)
5 months ago

Gail, you can cut the top of a water bottle just below the neck, where the fatter part begins and use it to blow air into a dog or cat’s snout that needs artificial resuscitation. It depends on the size of the animal. I have two for each of my big dogs. You blow through the drinking top. I have saved two dogs’ lives that way…one of mine and one of my neighbor’s. I keep them on hand at home and in the RV.

Bill (@guest_240379)
5 months ago

Don’t fill the water bottle full, leave some air at the top to allow far expansion when the water freezes, otherwise it can split the bottle.

david (@guest_240377)
5 months ago

I store my dry rice, beans, pasta in re-purposed plastic bottles. I also save my soda bottles, rinse and dry them and then fill with juices bought in gallon sizes. cuts the price of individual servings of ice teas to a 3rd. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

Fox (@guest_240356)
5 months ago

As to the cooler ice hint, I don’t like to use the water from my camper’s holding tank for drinking, so I fill my “ice packs” with filtered water from home. As they defrost, I use them for drinking water.

Gail (@guest_240365)
5 months ago
Reply to  Fox

Great idea, Fox. Safe and happy travels!

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