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Savings Challenge

Reusing Plastic Bottles

Use these containers for keeping things cold or decorating your porch

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Each year, the average American drinks about 48 gallons of carbonated beverages, but only about one-third of all plastic soda bottles get recycled, according to the American Chemical Council (ACC).

See also: Don't throw that away!

We — or at least our landfills — are drowning in discarded soda bottles.

The ACC says that residential recycling programs for soda and other plastic bottles are now available to more than 80 percent of Americans, and that's clearly a solution to keeping bottles out of the landfills. But there are also several creative ways to reuse these bottles before you put them in the recycle bin. These ideas can help you save the environment — and save money at the same time.

A juicy tip. Cut the base off a two-liter plastic bottle and you have something that looks almost like the plastic juicers you buy at the grocery store. Use the base to start squeezing fresh orange juice and lemonade. Your potential savings: Buying a cheap plastic juicer will set you back at least a couple of bucks, while a fancy chrome-plated citrus press or electric juicer can cost between $20 and $200.

Dripless cold packs. Fill these bottles almost to the top with water, freeze and then use in your coolers instead of loose ice or ice in plastic bags. It's cheaper and a lot less messy than all those melting cubes. Plus, keeping your freezer filled helps to insulate it and makes it operate more efficiently, not to mention that a full freezer keeps things colder for longer in the event of a power outage. Your potential savings: about $2 to $3 for every 10-pound bag of ice.

Workout weights. Try a soda bottle workout! Fill different-sized bottles with water or sand to use as free weights on land or in the pool. A one-liter bottle filled with sand weighs about 3.5 pounds. Your potential savings: A pair of 3-pound hand weights will cost you about $10. Or cancel your gym membership and just work out with soda bottle weights instead, which will save you an average of about $600 a year.

Toilet tank trick. Drop a plastic bottle or two filled with water (or water and gravel) into your toilet tank and you'll displace enough water to save half a gallon or more with every flush. Most toilets flush just fine with less water, and you'll conserve water and save money. Your potential savings: Based on the average American household's FPP (flushes per person), a family of four will save about 16 gallons of water a day with this little trick. That could add up to saving almost $100 a year on your water bill.

Festive patio lighting. Don't put away your strings of Christmas lights after the holidays. Instead, feed them into colorful empty soda bottles and rope them together (secured with duct tape) to hang around the patio in the summertime. Your potential savings: A set of 20 patio lights costs about $25.

Just don't buy it. At best, soda is empty calories and an expense you don't need. Consider cutting soda out of your diet and budget — or at least cutting back — and drink tap water or more nutritionally beneficial beverages instead. Your potential savings: The average family of four spends nearly $1,000 a year on carbonated soft drinks.

Jeff Yeager is the author of The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door. His website is www.UltimateCheapskate.com and you can friend him on Facebook at JeffYeagerUltimateCheapskate or follow him on Twitter.

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