Welcome to GreenItUp, a database of common items, and how to reduce, reuse, and recycle them.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Plastic Milk Jugs

Includes plastic one-gallon and half-gallon milk jugs.

Many families buy milk so often, these containers become an unavoidable regularly accumulating item. Unless we bring back the milkman, the most realistic and practical solution for most people is to just toss these in with the rest of your recyclables.


You may be able to find milk sold in glass bottles at some natural food stores or even some major grocery chains. These products are often organic and considerably more expensive (and most likely more delicious), although their price may include a ~$1 deposit, which you receive upon returning the cleaned bottle to the store. For example, Straus Family Creamery sells organic milk in glass bottles and you receive $1.25 for the bottle you return to the store. Find out where you can buy milk from Straus Family Creamery.

Depending on what you use the milk for (baking, for example), you may be able to substitute with powdered/evaporated milk.


Cut off the bottom to make a cloche (or mini greenhouse). Use this to protect small/young plants from frost and/or intense sun and retain moisture and humidity. To anchor it down if need be, cut a hole at the top of the handle and stick a… stick… or wire down the hole into the ground. You can use the cut off bottoms as a seed starting flat (see #4 in link).

Use 1/2-gallon jugs to make scoops (see #3 in link) for cleaning your gutter or scooping soil, or scooping food goods for your family or pet goods for your domesticated animals.

Make a yellow jacket trap for your picnic or camping trip. Cut a couple dime-sized holes in opposite sides of a milk jug a couple inches from the bottom. Fill the container with water mixed with a bit of dish soap (preferably unscented) up to about an inch from the holes. Tie a small piece of bait (probably meat, or whatever you find they’re attracted to) to a string. Lower the string into the jug until the bait is about an inch from the water, then put on the lid so the bait stays dangling. Yellow jackets will have a hard time flying back out and when they hit the water, the decreased surface tension (thanks to the soap) causes the yellow jackets to drown.

Cut out strips for sturdy plant markers.

Cut off the top, thread your belt through the handle and you have yourself a hands-free bucket for when you pick berries or your nose.

Fill them with water to use as weights. (There are articles about working out with milk jugs, but I’m not sure how safe this is in terms of ergonomics. They’re not exact substitutes for normal workout weights because the center of gravity isn’t at the handle so they may cause unintentional forces on your wrist depending on the motion, I’m guessing. Any of you experts in the field recommend against using milk jugs to work out?)

Make a bird feeder.

As if some of the above weren’t impractical or tacky enough, there are plenty of lists like this or like this that include IMO some pretty impractical or ridiculous uses for milk jugs.


Milk jugs are plastic #2 (HDPE) and can often be recycled with your curbside recyclables or at your local recycling center. To crush the containers, first remove the lid, then crush the container, then attach the lid.


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