Last updateFri, 27 Feb 2015 4pm

How many uses can you find for an empty bottle? Tonala recyclers count the ways

Recycling is a watchword among ecologically oriented people, but in most cases it means melting or grinding up metals, plastics and paper products to produce more metal, plastic and paper products. Tonala artisans Miguel and Ara Camacho, however, believe in recycling with more imagination and style.

“How many times,” Miguel asked me, “have you held an empty artistically designed bottle of some fine liqueur in your hand and thought ‘What a waste’ before tossing it into the trash with a sigh? Many of those bottles are genuine works of art and we have found a few ways to keep them in circulation.”

More than a few. Miguel and Ara Camacho specialize in cutting up cast-off bottles and transforming them into fashionable articles that are also useful around the home.

Said Miguel: “We started out turning them into vases and candy dishes and then discovered how to add a stylish handle, so your Absolut Vodka bottle now becomes a handsome mug. By drilling a hole in the bottom of the bottle and adding a light socket, we can transform an elegant bottle of Hennessy Cognac into an even more elegant table lamp. And we make candelabras, ashtrays, hummingbird feeders, pencil holders, snack dishes ... all kinds of things.”  

He also showed me a clever kind of two-part “absorption flower pot” in which a cut-off bottle top sits upside down (like a funnel) in the bottom half of the same bottle. 

“You put your plant into the funnel, put a cloth wick in the neck and fill the lower part with water,” said Miguel. “It works much better than a traditional flower pot.”

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