Energy & Sustainability Science
Recycling plastic bags into plastic blocks?

Spotted in the MAKE Flickr pool:

Michael Colombo has been experimenting with recycling plastic bags, and forming them into children’s blocks. The process, as documented in this Instructable, is to to melt the plastic in an oil bath at low heat, which causes the bags to disintegrate into goo. Anyone know more about the process? Is it safe?

I learned about the method of “stewing” plastic bags from this instructable a while back, and decided to try it for myself. In short, it’s done by placing the bags in canola oil, in which they acquire a gummy consistency, suitable for molding into rigid pieces. I decided to make some childrens’ blocks out of it. As far as I know the plastic is all #2 HDPE which I assume is safe for children. Can anyone shed some light on this? (don’t worry I wouldn’t give this to kids until I’m absolutely sure).

16 thoughts on “Recycling plastic bags into plastic blocks?

  1. I would think as long as you use food-grade oil and FDA approved food-contact plastics (i.e. grocery bags, drink containers, etc.), and as long as you don’t burn anything, that yes, this process is at least as safe as, say, grilling meat over a charcoal fire or running a hot or cold food smoker, and probably safer.

  2. Plastic grocery bags are typically LDPE (low density polyethelyne) or LLDPE (linear ldpe). You can look up the details for them. They are used in food contact. And in processes like injection molding you melt plastic, mold it, then cool it – so the basic process here should be benign. But don’t rely on my word for it do your own reading. And there’s also obviously a difference between toys that are played with and toys that are chewed on I wouldn’t recommend this for under 3 or any child inclined to chew on the blocks.

  3. I think these are fantastic ideas.Just that I don’t know how suitable it would be to play with the old plastics for the children.But they must be recycled and children helped to have a pollution free world.

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