That Was Made from What?! 6 Surprising Recyclables

Credit: cr55 |
Credit: cr55 |

That plastic milk jug you emptied while making this morning's cereal may one day be reincarnated as someone's tennis ball or fleece pullover.

Desk made from parts of an antique DC-6 Cowling Airplane. (Image credit:

In fact, plenty of everyday things to which you may not give much thought -- your toothbrush and home gym's floors, for example -- are being made using some pretty unexpected recycled materials.

Here, Life's Little Mysteries reveals six recyclables that are getting a second life as products such as tennis balls, golf balls -- and even gasoline.

#6 Furniture made from airplanes

What do you do with a decommissioned military plane? If you're artist Donovan Fell III, you turn the vintage aircraft into equally aerodynamic metallic sculptures and furniture -- including tables, desks and beds. Salvaged from junkyards, the plane parts, which come from such planes as B-25 bombers and DC-9s, would have otherwise been melted down for scrap metal if Fell hadn't been inspired to make then functional works of art instead.

#5 Tennis Balls made from plastic milk jugs

Most convenience-size beverage bottles and milk jugs sold in the U. S. are made from type 1 plastics, which consist of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. When these plastics reach a recycling center, they are sorted by color and type and then shredded. The pieces are cleaned, melted down and spooled into long, thin threads as the material hardens and dries. These thread fibers can then be used to make everything from the neon fuzz on tennis balls to fleece material for clothing and blankets.

Credit: Zelenka68 dreamstime

#4 Toothbrush made from yogurt cups

The containers you eat yogurt from can now be made into the toothbrush you use after eating said yogurt. The Preserve Toothbrush's handle is made completely of recycled yogurt cups. We know what you're thinking, but don't worry -- the bristles are made from brand new plastic.

Home gym flooring tiles made from Nike Grind. (Image credit:

#3 Home gym flooring made from old sneakers

Since 1993, sneaker company Nike has been collecting worn-out sneakers as part of its "Reuse-a-Shoe" program. The collected athletic shoes -- which don't have to be Nike brand -- are then ground up and purified to become a material called Nike Grind. This material is then used to make various sports surfaces, from running tracks and tennis courts to playgrounds and even synthetic turf fields. To donate your dirty old kicks, just drop them off at any Nike store.

Credit: University of Maine

#2 Golf Balls made from lobster shells

Researchers at the University of Maine have engineered golf balls that look and feel pretty much like, well, golf balls but for one notable difference: These are made of crushed lobster shells from industrial food plants and wrapped with a biodegradable casing. The balls are intended for use on cruise ships, where hobby golfers hit hundreds of thousands of golf balls out to sea each year. These marine-life-friendly balls are helping to eliminate both golf ball littering and lobster waste in one whack.


#1 Gasoline made from Four Loko

If you can't drink it, drive it? After several U.S. states yanked the alcoholic energy drink Four Loko from store shelves, a company responsible for recycling ethanol into fuel decided to put the banned beverage to good use. MXI Enterprises in Abingdon, Va., bought up shipments of Four Loko and used its processing facilities to distill the alcohol from the caffeinated drinks. This alcohol was then sold to be blended into gasoline. MXI also separated and recycled the beverage's water content.

This story was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.