Don't throw away glass bottles without seeing their potential

Save money on bricks - use old bottles to build with

Give glass a new lease of life and enjoy a great pastime!

My family call me the bag lady, an incessant hoarder of all things discarded. I can't stand seeing valuable raw materials going to the garbage heap just because they no longer serve their original purpose. Over the years they have allowed me to hang onto pieces of wood, metal and glass because they know I will kick up a fuss if they get chucked out. This article will show you what happens to old bottles and bits of tiles and broken glass. To me they are pieces of a giant puzzle just waiting to be put into place. From there they can be useful and of course, beautiful!

First some inspiration before we start

Mirror mosaic and plantersCredit: Sue Visser

This is the side of the house - a narrow little alley that I turned into a seating area. The glass mosaic on the back wall helps to reflect, deepen and invite the eye into the space visually.

mirror mosaic detail

The two planters on either side are old polystyrene boxes that we painted and then faced with tiles (eventually). The one panel is a mosaic of broken bottle ends, embedded in a cement mixture.

Bottles under the seatingCredit: Sue Visser

The seats are curved paving stones that rest on a wall of wine bottles that have been cemented together. The planters behind them are also polystyrene boxes that I collected from our pharmaceutical manufacturer. They are easy to cut into shapes and once they have been used to deliver thousands of veggicaps to the factory they get chucked away. What a waste! It is important to paint them and then cover them in tiles and bits of glass and mosaic. After a while the snails seem to enjoy eating the top edges of the boxes - a new sort of junk food?

front made from vibracreteCredit: Sue Visser

The front of the house has an entrance fountain that is constructed out of old vibracrete slabs that were thrown away because they were chipped and broken. They made a great foundation for the ponds that we clad with paving stones. The ponds are made out of the polystyrene boxes, yet again. They need to be coated with many layers of special waterproofing materials. The fish pond sealant contained a volatile solvent that melted the polystyrene. So first test the materials you use and remember that polystyrene is very soft and crumbly. However, we managed to make all these planters and ponds and they have survived for seven years already.

Here is a quick and easy bottle path and a way to make flower beds!

Kitchen garden path and plantersCredit: Sue Visser

While you are cogitating about your bottle seats and walls or whatever, start collecting the bottles. The children can use them in the meantime for making paths and playing in the sand. They make a cute edging to that special little vegetable patch they may have already established. As you can see from this picture there is no end to using castaway containers. the seedlings and slips grow well in milk cartons that you can use in your makeshift nursery. Keep collecting the bottles and even jars. the jars are easier to use for the paving.

There are two ways to build a glass bottle wall - 2 sided or 1 sided

Bottle walls 2 sides used

The wall on the left is made from rows of bottles that each face in the opposite direction. For a high wall it is better to build it a few rows at a time so it can settle down. the front and back ends need a good blob of wet cement, but in between you can save money by packing in wet sand. The same applies to the one-sided bottles, as we have done with the seating. Take your time and add one or two rows - usually as soon as you and your friends have emptied enough bottles over the months. We are lucky enough to have a communal glass recycling bin so there is no shortage of glass jars and bottles. After you have set your rows of bottles in the cement try to remove as much of the cement splashes as you can from the glass. It can get really hard!

Glass wall gets approved by puff adderCredit: Sue Visser

We had an unusual visitor who followed our Siamese cat into the garden. They were out in the sand dunes, chatting. When we called the cat in came this magnificent puff adder. As you can see, he approves of our workmanship.

Now we can make a mirror mosaic and enjoy the effects

Scrub the mosaicCredit: Sue VisserCollect the pieces of glass mirror from a glass supplier nearby. They have offcuts and you can persuade them to keep them for you. Yes, ask if you can visit their dustbin. Watch out for sharp edges and you may need to take your gloves along. Some of the strips need to be snapped or bashed into smaller pieces. If you have a glass or tile cutter then there isn't a problem. I found it best to stick the pieces in position with silicone glue or pieces of mirror tape. Then all you need to do  is cover them in grout. Use normal tile grout but add some cement and sand to make it more robust for outside. As soon as the cement is firm enough you can start cleaning it off the glass. Water with a sponge works well. Use a brush or pot scourer for more persistent spots.

Mosaic on stairs insideCredit: Sue Visser

You can also have fun covering stairs and bathroom walls with mosaics, as we have done. Also collect small pebbles and shells to include in the murals. Always place the square and rectangular pieces in position from largest to smallest. Then it is easier to fill in the tiny spaces with marbles and smaller items. Use tile grout for indoors. Don't let it set too hard before cleaning off the residues. A toothbrush is handy for the final scrub. It is a messy job. If you get hooked on mosaics there is no end to what you can do with them. They have been used for thousands of years!

I hope this gives you an idea of what you can do with a load of trash. You can also make a sunbird feeder out of plastic bottles and a CD box. There are also some toys to enjoy that are great for amusing both adults and children. Keep on recycling and collecting. You can watch the short movie for an overview of how to decorate your home. Enjoy!

Get more ideas for mosaics

Mosaic Craft: 20 Modern Projects for the Contemporary Home
Amazon Price: $24.95 $8.00 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 7, 2014)

Use these mosaics with recycled glass

Mosaic Craft Kit Crystaline
Amazon Price: $24.68 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 7, 2014)