R3 Collection_All with water drops on milk bottle
[ Collections ][ Zero Waste ]

The New R3 Collection

Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose

My “R3 Collection” is the second of two collections launching next Tuesday (8th September).

For some time, I had been thinking about how I could produce some jewellery by recycling or repurposing some sort of material. The material had to be one that I had easy access to, and also one that I had the tools to create something new from. But I don’t have the tools (or know-how) for woodwork, nor glass (yet!) 

Recycling image

What could I use?

What can I do that is different, distinctive and unique? I had already seen the popularity of the repurposed bicycle inner tube feather earrings, that have been bought and worn regularly by our lovely leader; Jacinda Ardern.

Lots of other ‘up-bicycled’ inner tube feather earrings seem to have popped up all over the place since then, and they’re very popular. That’s also not something I have access to, but it did make me wonder…

One thing we have access to reasonable numbers of, is milk bottles. Since I started the plastic free July challenge a couple of years ago, I had dramatically cut down the number of things we bought in plastic bottles.

Now, when I buy juice, I try to get it in the cardboard tetra packs (as they can be recycled in Auckland), or cordials in the glass bottles. We don’t drink many fizzy drinks (the one I buy most of is tonic 😉).

However we do still buy milk in the 2L plastic bottles. We just don’t have access to regular, reasonably priced milk in glass bottles and we go through quite a lot of it!

Different earring designs from repurposed plastic milk bottles

Light bulb moment!

I washed and dried a couple of milk bottles, soaking off the labels. Cut them up, so that they’re ‘reasonably’ flat, and then used a pen knife to cut a couple of shapes out of them. The first two I created were a leaf, and a large feather. 

First designs of leaf earrings
First milk bottle feather design with leaf in background

I attached some handmade, recycled Sterling Silver earring hooks, posted a picture to my Instagram and Facebook pages – and was stunned at the excited response I received! 

First insta image of milk bottle leaf earrings

Given I was already in the middle of designing and creating my “Leaves” collection (also launching on the 8th September) I decided this would need to be a completely separate collection and that all the pieces would be earrings, but in different shapes. All the pieces would be carefully cut out by hand from plastic milk bottles. 

New “R3” Collection

Needing a name for this new collection, I considered what my aim was (is!) I didn’t want to simply call it the “Milk Bottle collection’, as it sounds a little weird – and also, in the future I might like to create more items using some other type of plastic bottle (or an entirely different material!)

So, my aim is to:

  • Reduce waste (or remove it from the waste cycle), and
  • Reuse a product, by 
  • Repurposing it into something new 

=>  R3

(Although I loved the idea of recycling a material, “recycling” is actually when a chemical reaction occurs that changes something into a completely new material. That’s not what I was doing here, so I felt I couldn’t really use the word “recycle”.)  

Also, three is my favourite number – so it all worked well. 😁

I started to think more about the shapes I wanted to create – deciding to stick with the ‘natural’ theme (Although tassels aren’t ‘natural’, but I’ve decided to include them anyway.🤷‍♀️)

Shortly after, I realised I would need to create a base design, from which my creations would be cut (so that they’re at least somewhat the same size/ shape!).

Base designs board
Design base board
First design for Kowhai flower
First Kowhai Design

Some designs were easier than others. The leaves and feathers seemed almost obvious! Occasionally I would post pictures to my Insta & FB pages to get some feedback on some of my designs. It took me a few different design attempts before I found the Kowhai flower that I liked, and then I added some recycled Sterling Silver ‘stamens’ to the earring hook behind the flower – and am really pleased with the result! 

Kowhai Flower earrings made from repurposed milk bottles & eco silver

I also tried out painting the earrings, to give a bit of colour. Again, I asked my followers to tell me their thoughts. Although I liked some of the designs with a bit of colour added (the feather was particularly popular!) I’ve decided to keep them plain for now. If there’s enough interest, I might add a painted option later on.

Painted and natural repurposed milk bottle Feather earrings
Painted and natural repurposed milk bottle Leaf earrings
Painted and natural repurposed milk bottle Tiger stripe earrings
Painted and natural repurposed milk bottle Kowhai earrings

The Water Droplets were the last design I created, where three different sized strips of milk bottle plastic have been looped and layered together, secured to a blue plated copper jump ring, and then attached to the handmade earring hooks. Each of the earring hooks have been made individually, and may not be the same as those in the photos.

Behind the scenes_minimising milk bottle plastic waste
Water Drop design

Now, I’m pretty happy with the resulting collection! Each pair of earrings are cut by hand, using both pen knife and scissors, patterns engraved, hole punched and attached to handmade earring hooks (all made by me from 100% recycled Sterling Silver). 

I’d love to hear what you think?

R3 Collection_All items flatly on flax leaf
Finalised R3 Collection
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