Shrinky Dinks: Recycle Plastic VS Store Bought

We tested DIY Shrinky Dinks using plastic fruit packages

Recently I saw one of those silly Facebook videos showing how “easy” it is to make your own “shrink charms” with recycled plastic from food packaging. I became immediately nostalgic for my crafty childhood and began hording plastic boxes of all sorts.

It’s Shrinky Dink Time!

2 shrinky dink pokemon sitting next to a quarter

We’ve been eating berries by the bushel lately–and tossing so many boxes in the recycle bin! I could see all those packages turning into dozens of “free” faux Shrinky Dinks for Mitch’s crafting needs. 

stack of plastic fruit containers

When I was a kid you could find Shrinky Dinks in any toy aisle, but now it’s kinda of hard to find. And sometimes you can only find the pre-printed Shrinky Dinks...boring!

Fun fact: I HAVE real Shrinky Dink material stashed in my craft closet–you can still find it at Michaels, locally at Art Mart and sometimes Target if you’re lucky. Amazon carries both the real Shrinky Dinks and a few knock offs.

I decided we’d run a few tests and report back to you with our results.

Testing Our Recycled Plastic for Shrink Factor

We saved all kinds of plastic, from fruit and deli containers. Many of these packages had very little flat plastic to draw on.

testing recycled plastic to see if it can shrink with heat

Our first attempt on recycled plastic didn’t go so well. As you can see, the stlMotherhood logo refused to flatten out. Mitch’s Minecraft figure turned white on one side and barely shrunk.

This needed a more scientific approach!

 We made a couple Pokeballs, all identically traced from one of Mitch’s drawing.

We did one on recycled plastic, one on real Shrinky Dink frosted and the last on Shrinky Dink clear plastic. I don’t remember what Mitch’s codes meant…I’ll have to ask him later.

before and after photos of shrinky dinks made with recycled plastic and store bought material
Please note: the original drawing wasn’t exactly round. But they were all traced.

As you can see, it didn’t go well. My recycle berry box turned into a milky white scroll. So I asked Google what I was doing wrong.

Not All Plastic Shrinks

Does any kind of plastic shrink?

It turns out that only ONE KIND of plastic can be used as a Shrinky Dink stand in, and that’s plastic stamped with a #6 recycle code.
Other kinds of plastic doesn’t work, and some might even be dangerous. Doh!
I looked at my remaining plastic stash and only ONE box was the right kind of plastic. If I hadn’t been too tired to make the teenager a sandwich, we would have never gotten this project off the ground!shrinky dinks recycle plastic

Can you save money using DIY Shrink Plastic?

Think you can save your crafting dollar by using take out boxes for Shrinky Dink crafts? Think again. Because seriously, no one who’s watching their budget should be buying tons of deli takeout. 
Go by the real thing. It’s about a dollar a sheet!

Can you Shrink #1 Plastic?

Nope, is shrinks a little, but mainly turns white. The Minecraft guy on the right was #1 plastic.recycled plastic doesn't all shrink

Can you Microwave Shrink Plastic?

No, you need heat from your oven — or toaster oven — to shrink plastic. Remember, only #6 plastic will shrink correctly!

How much does Shrink Plastic shrink?

Real Shrinky Dinks shrink to about 1/3 of their size when placed in a 350 degree oven. Your mileage will vary when using recycled plastic. #6 plastic behaves similar to store bought Shrinky Dinks.

Testing #6 Plastic — Will it Shrink?

I started looking for the magical #6 stamp on things I picked up at the store and found that #6 plastic is not widely used by my family.

Our local grocery store deli boxes work, but not their sushi. Berry cartons are totally out. Rotisserie chicken boxes? Those were the right type…but kinda lumpy. 

The more I tested, the more I found that recycle plastic doesn’t live up to the real thing.

#6 Plastic does Shrink. Kinda.

The charms below are all made on #6 plastic and they turned out a little warped. You can really see it in my logo–which I traced! Compare it to the logo Photoshopped on the picture in the bottom corner. It’s just not right.

The heart and the Arch are cute, but skewed at a weird angle.

Shrinky Dink recycle

My final test was on poor little Pikachu. I grabbed an image from the ‘net and traced him on both real Shrinky Dink material and a rotisserie chicken lid using the same Sharpie Markers and baking at 325 degree per the Shrinky Dink directions.

The chicken lid had a warning stamped on it and very little smooth plastic. But someone online said that lumpy plastic works great because it all melts smooth. Really? Let’s see.

sample of Pikachu made with both recycle diy shrinky dink plastic and real store bought material

As you can see, not only did the recycled plastic shrink unevenly (Pikachu on the left is a little off kilter)…he’s also bigger and etched with rotisserie chicken warnings. Because the warning was stamped into the plastic, my marker was not able to color inside every little groove…giving Pikachu a funky texture. 

Plastic belongs in the Recycle Bin

If you happen to buy a lot of things wrapped in #6 plastic, and you just hate to toss that container…go ahead and try to craft with it.

Use permanent markers and heat your oven to 325. It’s a fun experiment, but I can’t guarantee that you’ll like the results.

If you’re here in St. Louis, head over to Michaels and look for real Shrinky Dink plastic. They keep it with the scrapbook supplies.

DIY Recycle Shrinky Dinks

DIY Recycle Shrinky Dinks

Want to make DIY shrink plastic charms? Heres how!

Materials

  • #6 plastic from recycled containers

Tools

  • Permanent Markers
  • Scissors
  • Cookie sheet
  • Parchment Paper (optional)
  • Oven

Instructions

  1. Wash and remove any labels from your #6 Plastic.
  2. Find a flat section of plastic and cut it out.
  3. Draw or trace on the plastic with a permanent marker.
  4. Cut out the design.
  5. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper (if using).
  6. Place plastic on cookie sheet.
  7. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  8. Bake plastic for a few minutes -- watch plastic the whole time, there is no set time for shrinking.

    Notes

    #6 plastic is the only sort that shrinks well, and even then its not perfect.

    The parchment paper keeps the plastic from sticking.

    Can you really make Shrinky Dinks from recycled plastic like fruit and deli containers? We tested recycled plastic against real store bought material.