Re-Using Plastic Type 5 Containers (Polypropylene)

September 21, 2010 Six comments View all articles in Re-Use-It

Yogurt, butter, margarine, cottage cheese, sour cream, and many more similar, widely consumed foods are all sold in plastic containers. Some, but not all, of these containers are made from polypropylene (plastic type 5), one of the least-recyclable plastics. While some Whole Foods Markets will accept this type of plastic, most city recycling centers won't.

All of these recycling difficulties mean, therefore, that more and more of these containers are ending up in landfills. This is particularly troubling since they can be used and reused for a long time, for lots of different purposes, and they're free with the food purchase. Keep reading for a list of ways you can reuse your plastic containers in and around the house.

Re-Use Plastic Containers around the House

  • Do you hate dragging the heavy mop bucket around with you just to touchup the bathroom or kitchen floor? Fill a plastic container with hot soapy water and do your touchup cleaning with a rag instead; it's easier to move around with you and wastes less water than a whole bucket.
  • Keep an empty plastic container near the washer to hold dirty, wet rags you want to keep separate from other laundry.
  • Use plastic containers to organize items beneath your bathroom or kitchen sink.
  • Keep your bobby pins, hair ties, clips, barrettes, and miscellaneous hair accessories together in a butter or margarine container.
  • Use a small yogurt container as a toothbrush holder.
  • Use a small yogurt container as a pencil/pen holder to keep by the phone or in your home office.
  • If you have a little paint leftover from that DIY project, keep it in a plastic container with a lid so you don't have to store the whole can or bucket.
  • Pour some paint into a butter or margarine container to use for touching up baseboards, doorframes, ceilings; any places the roller might've missed.

Re-Use Plastic Containers For Kids

  • If your kids enjoy playing in the bathtub, give them some used plastic containers to keep them entertained. The containers are even more fun if you poke holes in the bottom.
  • Use plastic containers to store and organize your kids' tiny knickknacks like beads, hair ties and barrettes, Barbie shoes and accessories, marbles, army men, jacks, etc. To make the containers look nicer in their bedrooms, just cover them with construction paper and label their contents with a colorful marker.
  • Avoid struggling with heavy paint bottles or cans that easily spill by pouring small amounts of paint into yogurt containers; extra containers can be used for mixing colors. And you can also use the containers to hold water for cleaning paintbrushes.
  • Organize all of your kids' art and craft supplies by storing them in reused plastic containers and stacking them to save space.
  • Used containers of all sizes are great for storing homemade play dough.
  • Use small yogurt containers to make miniature Christmas trees your kids can give to their teachers and school friends around the holidays. Simply fill the containers with some soil or pebbles and put in small evergreen branches. Use colored tissue or construction paper to decorate the container, and then hang miniature candy canes or tie ribbons on the branches.
  • Let your kids use sour cream and cottage cheese containers outdoors as dirt and sandbox toys. They're the perfect size for making sandcastles and digging with.
  • School teachers are usually very willing to take plastic containers off your hands, as they use them in their classrooms to organize everything from paper clips to Popsicle sticks; so check at your kids' school to see if you can donate those plastic containers you've been accumulating.

Re-Use Plastic Containers In the Garden

  • Small yogurt containers are the perfect size for growing seedlings in. After the seeds are fully grown and you've transplanted them in your garden, keep the containers in your shed or garage to use again next year.
  • Keep a few containers in your gardening caddy and use them for scooping up soil, fertilizer, or compost.
  • Create a bird house using a large butter container similar to the one made by angie83: butter tub birdhouse.

Re-Use Plastic Containers In the Kitchen

  • Grow herbs in a plastic container on your windowsill.
  • Reuse plastic containers to send leftovers home with friends and family.
  • Forget friends and family, store the leftovers in a used plastic container and keep them in the refrigerator for yourself!
  • Boxed Jell-O and pudding is much cheaper than the snack size packs, and making your own from home eliminates all the packaging waste. Put these dessert favorites in small yogurt containers for your family members to take in their lunches.
  • If you don't have a hamburger press, reuse a cottage cheese or sour cream container to shape hamburger patties. You can also freeze the patties inside the container to preserve their perfectly round shape and to keep them on hand for the next barbeque.
  • If your strainer is in the dishwasher, just poke a few holes in a plastic container to strain the water from your vegetables or pasta. The hot water will make the plastic unusable for food storage, however; so just remember to reuse the container outside or in another part of your house.
  • Reuse small yogurt containers to pack lunch snacks you normally put in plastic bags, like chips or trail mix. Make sure the containers find their way back home at the end of the day so they can continue to be reused.
  • You can also reuse small yogurt containers to hold candy or other small snacks at parties. Just use some ribbon and construction paper to instantly match them with the rest of the party d├ęcor. You could even put the lids on and send these containers home with guests as party favors.
  • Reuse a plastic container to store and preserve cookie dough until you're ready to bake it instead of using saran wrap.
  • Use plastic containers to organize the bulk items, spices, and condiment packets in your pantry.

Once you've gotten as much use out of your plastic containers as you possibly can, send them to a recycling program developed specifically for type 5 plastic products such as the Preserve Gimme 5 organization.

* According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cold food storage containers are intended for those uses only and should not be used for heating food, as the heat from the microwave could cause chemicals to leach into the food. Most of these containers are made of either type 2 or type 5 plastic, both of which are not known to leach chemicals into foods. Therefore, used containers are safe for food storage, but you must remember to put leftovers in a different dish before reheating.

Photo credit: Angie83.


Rossana Woodsmall on Dec. 7, 2012 at 10:52 a.m.

Can you please tell me if type 5 plastic is freezer safe?

James on March 23, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.

When I buy CD/DVD's in bulk the Full and Half size containers have made great containers to take my bagel(s) to work or play! The bagel fits perfect in and over the stack pin of the container. What a great reuse! (just don't heat in a MW)

Lance on March 27, 2013 at 3:06 p.m.

There is a company called Preserve that recycles type 5 yogurt containers into toothbrushes, which can then be sent back to the company (pre-paid by them) to be re-recycled into plastic playground benches and other fun fixtures. Look them up.

bella on July 12, 2013 at 9:54 p.m.

i've seen the bagel/CD one before. XD anywayyy, i was specifically wondering what type of paint would be best used on type 5 plastic?

Carol on Dec. 22, 2014 at 10:29 p.m.

I am wanting to paint the containers using acrylic paints, and later buy gifts that can be put into the #5 containers, in this day and age will I get negative feed back from some people?

susan on Aug. 24, 2018 at 1:50 p.m.

I put plant fertilizer in a large plastic drink container TO FEED my plants. can I reuse this container for drinking water myself after cleaning it several times

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