Uses for Plastic Bottles

I’m a big believer of thinking outside the box. It opens your eyes to opportunities and resources you may not have noticed before. One of these is plastic bottles.

Plastic bottles are one of the most common and most useful pieces of trash you will ever find for survival. Plastic bottles show up as trash all around the world, but to a crafty survivor, this trash can become treasure.

I’m guessing you have, seeing as how Americans throw away approximately 35 billion of them each year. Unfortunately, only about one-fourth of them get recycled, due in large part to people being too lazy to do it.

Recycling your empties is clearly the way to go here, but you may want to keep a few empty plastic bottles around because they could come in handy. There are many uses for plastic bottles, including a number that fit in well with a survival situation. As they say, one person’s trash in another person’s treasure.

Some of the uses we describe below are ones you have probably already been involved with. Others you may have heard about but never attempted. And still others are ones you might want to try to see how they work for you.

So, here’s a list of them. Maybe you have a few others in mind that we don’t mention here.

  • Liquid carrier. This is the most obvious, and intended, purpose of a water bottle. Staying hydrated in a survival situation could very possibly save your life. Keep in mind that the more clear the plastic is, the more likely the liquid could be influenced by outside elements, including heat.
  • Water filtration. Starting with finer material such as sand, then layering other items including gravel, grasses, cheesecloth or a coffee filter, etc., into the bottle, you can create a water-filtering device. Turn it upside down, cut off the large end of the bottle, pour the water in and what comes out the drinking end should be filtered.
  • Food scoop. After cutting off the top of the plastic bottle, you can use it to scoop certain foods from larger containers into bowls and cups. This would include grains, flour, sugar, pet food, etc.
  • Heating water. Suspend plastic bottles filled with water above an open fire so that the flames barely touch the bottoms of the bottles. Leave the bottle caps off to allow steam to escape. In addition to heating water for coffee or tea, you will have purified the water with this method.
  • Purification. On a sunny day, if a clear plastic bottle filled with water lies in the sun for six hours or so, the water should be purified. Remove any labels first. This method is not as effective as a water filtration bottle, of course, but it could eliminate some contaminants in a pinch.
  • Cordage. I have to admit, this is not one I would have thought about right away. But if you cut a plastic bottle into thin strips and attach those strips, you can get a very nice length of cordage out of it. You need a sharp knife, and one option is sticking that knife into a tree stump and using both hands to move the bottle against the blade.
  • Funnel. This one is very basic, but there could very well be a time when you need a funnel and don’t have one. Cut your bottle in half below the taper and take off the lid. The tapered end will be the top of your funnel.
  • Storage: Put small survival items (like first aid kit) inside a plastic bottle to waterproof it.
  • Solar Light: Fill a clean, clear plastic bottle up with water and some bleach.  Then put it into a hole in the roof.  The water will diffuse sunlight, making a surprisingly bright light.

What other unconventional uses have you found for using plastic bottles? Share them in the comments section, I’d love to hear.


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