Recycling Plastic Jugs for Boaters

Six uses for up-cycled plastic jugs.
Up-cycled plastic jug for using on a boat
An up-cycled plastic jug can be used for a variety of purposes aboard your boat and reduces plastic in the waste stream. Add a lanyard to make it less likely to be dropped overboard. You can even add your boat name. Garrett Cortese

I keep a couple of tools made from old plastic jugs—ones with a handle—aboard my boat and use them frequently. These take the place of items I might buy anyway, so doing so saves money. And, these up-cycled plastic jugs perform multiple functions, so they save space.

With plastic filling our oceans at an increasing rate, anything we can do to keep it out of the waste stream helps. If a lot of people do a little bit, it really does add up.

Got any environmentally-friendly boating practices you’d like to share? Let us know at

Using a jug to scoop ice
Whether scooping ice for a cooler or allowing your kids to scoop sand at the sandbar, a repurposed plastic jug comes in handy. Garrett Cortese


Whether it’s the cubes from the marina’s ice machine or the sand your grandchild is molding into a castle at your favorite cove, beach or sandbar, a scoop comes in handy aboard the boat. Keep the cap on in this application.


The jug can prove convenient when nature calls. Use the jug with the cap on for this purpose, retaining the end product for disposal upon completion of the deed.Disinfecting is recommended following use. We decided not to illustrate this tip.

Using a jug as a funnel
The threads of many up-cycled plastic just mate with the threads of many fuel and oil fills. Either way, use your repurposed plastic jug as a funnel aboard your boat. Garrett Cortese


Most boaters know the trick of pouring over the handle to make pouring fluids a neater job. Even so, a funnel makes filling oil, adding fuel from a can, or topping off coolant super neat. Remove the cap—I find the jug’s threads mate with those of some fill pipes, which can make the jug a hands-free tool.

Using a jug to capture liquids
A plastic jug can help capture spilled liquids during filter changes in awkward bilge spaces. Garrett Cortese

Filter Changer

Whether it’s the side-mounted oil filter on my engine or the fuel filter located at arm’s length through an 8-inch-diameter deck plate, I use the jug to ensure filter changes don’t include spills. After loosening the filter with the wrench, I hold the jug under the filter (or prop it in place) and then spin it off by hand, catching the element, and any fuel or oil, for proper disposal.

Read Next: Three Ways To Boat Cleaner

Jug as a bailer
Maybe you need to bail out your dinghy? Maybe your livewell or fishbox drain pump fails? Use your repurposed plastic jug as a bailer. Garrett Cortese


For this use, I suggest leaving the cap on, unless you assign the bailing task to a shipmate with a sense of humor. So, the livewell or fish-box pump goes kaput? Break out the jug and bail out the box. Have a dinghy or kayak? Tie the jug to a thwart or frame to eliminate paddle drips and spray.


Pump Winterizer

Close the seacock, if applicable, and remove a pump’s intake hose. With the cap on the jug, fill it three-quarters full with nontoxic antifreeze. Insert the intake hose and turn on the pump so your livewell, washdown, transom shower, sink or whatever water circuit is protected against freeze damage.

Make an Up-Cycled Multitool

Cut the scoop shape using a utility knife. Retain the cap; it will come in handy, as the accompanying text explains. Add a lanyard to make it easy to hang up or secure in the boat or dinghy. Round bleach and soap jugs make the best all-around multitool, but a narrow oil or antifreeze jug can be useful if you have a need to scoop or bail in a narrow area. Feel free to add your boat’s name, apply stickers or otherwise personalize it. Have fun, and consider other ways you can repurpose plastic or minimize its use aboard