Bottle Cap Murals
I’ve mentioned a few times in the past that I am an art teacher. Teaching art is such a great job! Since I teach 5th – 12th grade I get to play with a BIG variety of materials each day. I love seeing what the kids can create and am constantly impressed by the level of work the students create.
This year I was really interested in attempting some collaborative projects with my students and after reading these posts on Art with Mr. E, one of my favorite art teacher blogs, I too was inspired to create a bottle cap mural.
Did you know that most recycling plants will not accept plastic bottle caps? In fact, if you are sending plastic bottles to the recycling center with the caps on, someone has to manually remove all of the caps before the bottles can be recycled! Why? Bottle caps are often made from different types of plastic than the bottles and many bottle caps themselves are made from different types of plastic. While the individual plastics can likely be recycled, mixing them can contaminate the plastic and lower the value of the product. Therefore, most recycling centers make it their policy not to accept bottle caps.
Collecting Bottle Caps
The first week of school last fall I put out a plea to all the students and faculty to start collecting bottle caps. Almost immediately bottle caps started to arrive! Students were bringing them in almost weekly. Several teachers even asked students to bring them in as part of their community service requirements. I was amazed!
I had TRIED to keep a running tally of the caps we received but when the number soared into the TENS OF THOUSANDS I gave up counting!
Sorting Bottle Caps
The biggest issue with collecting bottle caps is sorting them. Sorting the caps takes a long time especially when people send you big bags full of mixed caps. I collected some copy paper boxes that were destined for the dumpster and labeled them for the different colors. Bottle caps come in an amazing variety of colors! Blue, white, green and red are the most common but we also had yellow, orange, gold, silver, black, pink and purple.
We sorted what we could when we had some free time but in the end we had a big “Sorting Party”! There were 27 of us all sorting bottle caps. It took us almost an hour to separate them! It was pure chaos in the room but it was fun and we felt accomplished when we were done!
Designing the Bottle Cap Murals
Since I am in a temporary location while our new middle school and fine arts building are being constructed it wasn’t really practical to do a large, permanent mural. I opted to do 5 smaller murals that could later be hung in our new fine arts building.
In class we discussed how the mural would be created and that, due to the size of the bottle caps, large areas of solid color would work the best. I asked my students to submit sketches of designs they would like to do and then each class voted on their favorite. We selected a blue and white paw print (we are the Bulldogs), a large red flower, a rainbow fish, a butterfly and the word ART in primary colors.
Several of my high school students sketched out the designs and painted the background colors. We used some old boards that had fallen out of the bottom of the drawers in the old wooden drafting desks that are in my class room. Again we were recycling!
Putting a Lid (cap) On It
Mr. E had used DAP Dynaflex 230 to attach his bottle caps. I had considered this possibility but at $3-$4 a bottle it didn’t really fit our budget. The murals will eventually be hanging inside my classroom and will not be exposed to the elements so I opted to go with good ol’ hot glue.
Obviously working with hot glue with students can be dangerous. We took very careful precautions to prevent anyone from getting burned.
Students took turns putting on 2 bottle caps at a time while they finished up other projects. Most classes finished in two class periods. There were two classes that were unable to complete their murals due to field day and semester awards so my high school classes will be putting the finishing touches on those murals.
From collecting bottle caps, to painting backgrounds, to gluing down caps over 200 students had a hand in the finished products. The project was very successful and I look forward to doing this again next year on and even grander scale!
Finished Bottle Cap Murals
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11 thoughts on “Bottle Cap Murals”
What an awesome idea – the art projects turned out great! Go Green!
Hi. I am in the middle of doing a bottle cap project and trying to determine what adhesive to go with. Hot glue guns seem like the most cost effective, unscented (I can’t rely on the weather to count on outdoors) option. How have your murals held up? What paint did you use as a base? Ours will be hanging permanently inside of our cafeteria so I want to be sure they have longevity.
Thanks for your help.
Hi Angie –
I did use hot glue and found that is held up okay. The murals are inside in a location where the temperature is pretty consistent. I do think hot glue would not be a good choice if the mural was in the sun or in a warm place as I think it would melt.
The other issue I am dealing with -which has nothing to do with gluing method – is dust! These bottle caps LOVE dust and are really hard to clean off!
THEY LOOK GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -Mr E
Great project – have a few questions – I’m working with kids 16 of them (ages 7-15) in an afterschool At Risk program (subsidized housing and meals etc.). There is not a supply budget so I work alot from creating art projects out of donated items. Anyway, they do have Elmer’s glue and Tempered paint available in the classroom…do you think Elmers and Tempered paint would work? If so on WHAT substrate….foam board from a craft store? I am thinking their individual pieces would not be larger than ~ 11″ x 14″ since they all live in apts housing. I would have to purchase the substrate – would cut-up plywood be better and cheaper??? Any ideas would be super!!!!!
Hi I’m a Peace Corps volunteer and we’re working on a project in a community with a bottle cap mural and i was just wondering if you knew the amount of hot glue you would need for a mural of about 3 metros cubed.
I have a class of 12 students and wanted to make the bottlecaps rearrangeable; so I tried velcro adhered with E6000 on the caps and on the hardboard I used…bad idea as the velcro on the caps..came off most of them when I peeled them off; So then I tried magnetic tape and found: 1) the little circle tabs with an adhesive white pad stick the best..but the cheapest magnetic tape 1″ or 1/2″ work well but add a dot of hot glue or theyll peel off… not really sure making them rearrangeable is worth it but will see…If you can get some magentic wipe-of boards for each kid it works…or use hot glue on a hardboard shape and make it permanent…
I am working with a senior center on one of these. It is going to be installed outside. Do you know of a glue that would be best for outside?
Dell has also made other strides toward becoming a greener
technology company. The more batteries you give for recycling, the more money you will make.
Quite often the actual storage containers have purported to generally be hauling second hand items but the truth is they have been engaging in electronic junk.