ALL ABOARD: WE’RE GATHERING STEAM
Through the magical chemistry of polymers, you can turn recycled plastic into a beautiful flower garden or bouquet. So save your plastic cups and plates from that party or snacktime at school, and use them to make flowers that are just as delightful as real ones!
- Clear plastic plates, cups, bowls, shot glasses, etc. – look for recycling number 6
- Sharpie markers
- Cloth-covered stem wire, 18 gauge
- Glue gun
- Terracotta pots, floral foam, vases for display (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350º F.
- Colour your plates, cups and bowls with Sharpie marker. It helps to colour them as completely as possible, especially in the very centre because that’s where the glue to hold the stem goes, and the glue shows if you don’t colour that part adequately.
- Cut slits in the sides of each using scissors. Careful, as sometimes plastic pieces go flying!
- Place plastic pieces on a foil-covered baking sheet and bake for 2-5 minutes. Be sure to watch your pieces in the oven, both because it’s cool to see them melt and curl up, but also to make sure you don’t leave them in too long. Also, it’s a good idea to put the fan on or open a window for ventilation because melting plastic can get a little smelly.
- Let cool and hot glue your covered floral stem to the back center of the flower. You can also glue on an additional pieces of plastic that you want to add to the flower. For example, you can use shot glasses to make a centre corona like a daffodil’s.
Spark Creative Learning!
This flower-forming works because of the characteristics of the plastic used in the cups and plates. The heat of the oven changes the alignment of the polymer chains within the plastic. In the cup and plate manufacturing process, a polymer resin is heated, extruded, rolled into flat sheets and then molded. This process aligns the polymers into an orderly pattern, but the heat of the oven returns them to their naturally disordered, clumped state. Gravity and the placement of the cuts define how they crumple. #6 plastic works well in this project because its melting point is low enough for the oven to reach.