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Looking for something more adventurous? Try to make decorative trays and marble patterned coasters in remelted plastic.

Remelting your used shampoo or hair mask containers into something completely different is actually a lot easier than you might think. You don’t need much more than an oven to make your own blocks and trays of used plastic, and they are incredibly decorative, for instance as coasters for the water carafe in the office or as a colorful tray for candles in the living room. Read here and see how:

All you need is:

  • Your used, emptied, cleaned container
  • Sharp scissors or a knife
  • An oven
  • Baking paper
  • A wooden mould with clamps or two wooden cutting boards and a rolling pin
  • Optional: cake rings or cake cutters to cut out the coasters
  • Heat-resistant gloves or oven mitts
  • Potholders
  • A bit of patience. The plastic needs to go in and out of the oven a couple of times if you really want it thin and with a beautiful marble pattern, because it cools down very quickly. However, it’s easy to do this over the course of a few days, so even if the plastic cools down, it can be reheated.

How to:

  1. Enjoy the products, empty the containers, and thoroughly clean them.
  2. Use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the containers into strips and smaller pieces.
  3. The different types of plastic melt at different temperatures. Only mix the same types of plastic.
  4. Heat the oven to 180 degrees if you want to melt PE plastic, which is what the shampoo/conditioner containers are made of. If you want to melt the plastic from the hair masks, which is PP plastic, the oven should be heated to about 190 degrees. Try it out, but make sure that the heat does not get too high, because this can cause the surface of the plastic to turn brown.
  5. On a baking tray lined with baking paper place the plastic strips in a random pattern as shown in the video. Put them in the oven and check on them often. They should not melt so much that they turn completely liquid - they just need to slightly melt together so you can model and twist them.
  6. After approx. 10-15 min in the oven the plastic looks sticky. Now take it out of the oven. Caution: the plastic is very hot and sticky! Use heat-resistant gloves.
  7. To create the marble-like pattern, take the lump with both hands (with heat-resistant gloves on!) and rotate it once (clockwise with your right hand and counter-clockwise with your left hand). Fold it once down the middle and rotate once more in the same direction as before. Do it quickly since the plastic cools down very fast. You might have to do this in several steps, because the plastic cools down very quickly and becomes difficult to manipulate. WARNING: Wear heat-resistant gloves! If the plastic comes into contact with the skin, rinse with cold water for a long time, and then apply honey. Honey is incredibly good for healing burns and often heals burns much faster than other drugs or products. It effectively prevents infections and removes dead tissue.
  8. Once the lump of plastic has been well modelled and the colors blend together, put it back on the tray in the oven.
  9. After approx. 10 minutes, take out the lump and quickly put it under pressure in e.g. the mould you have made for it. For our project, we have not used a mould, but instead two wooden cutting boards covered with baking paper. Pressed them together to get whatever thickness you want. You might also have to do this part of the process in a few steps. We used a rolling pin to roll it flat, on top of a piece of baking paper, and we did this several times, because the plastic quickly cools down. Be careful not to squeeze the lump together in a too crooked way. If you do not use a mould the edges turn out a bit random, but that has its charm, and you won’t need to spend time putting together a box in the workshop. We used cake rings of metal to cut out small, circular coasters from the rolled out and heated plastic mass. Use cake rings/cutters slightly larger than you want your final plastic shape to be, because plastic shrinks when it cools down. However, be careful because the metal rings get very hot, so make sure to press down the rings with a wood cutting board, for instance. This can be done easily, quickly and cheaply at home in the kitchen.
  10. Put something very heavy on top of the "mould" or use clamps to keep the pressure on the plastic as it cools down. Plastic shrinks a bit when it cools down, so the clamps may need to be slightly tightened every 2 to 5 minutes if you use a mould.
  11. Allow the plastic to cool down completely before removing it from the baking paper or removing it from the mould. This can take up to 2 hours depending on how thick the plastic is. With thin coasters like those we made, it takes no more than 30 minutes before they have cooled down completely.
  12. Voila! You now have a gorgeous plastic tray or a colorful coaster.

Video guide

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