How to Make a Raft With Plastic Bottles

By Rowan Wood
Many plastic bottles are needed to build a raft.

Building a raft out of plastic bottles can be a cost-effective way to have a rafting adventure. While the materials to create a recycled raft may take a while to collect, the end result is not only recreational, but also an environmentally friendly educational tool. In just a few hours you can assemble a raft that will not only float on a body of water, but will also hold the weight of a passenger or two.

Gather the materials you need for your boat. Save your empty plastic bottles. Plastic bottles can also be gathered from trash cans and recycling centers. Go around to neighbors or have a "plastic bottle drive" door-to-door and collect the plastic bottles people are throwing away. Take a trip to the junkyard to find old nets and wooden pallets. You can also find wooden pallets thrown away behind department stores. Be sure to ask the shop before you take any pallets.

Calculate how many bottles you will need to keep your raft afloat with you on it. Since each gallon bottle will be displacing roughly eight pounds of weight, you must divide the weight of what will be sitting on the plastic bottles (including the weight of the pallet) by eight. For example, if you want your raft to support 500 pounds of weight, divide 500 by 8 to know how many bottles you'd need. To support 500 pounds, you would need about 63 one-gallon bottles.

Separate the bottles into two equal piles, as you will need two pontoons (floats), one on each side of your raft, to keep it from tipping over. Remove the labels from the bottles. Tie together small groups of bottles with twine. Do not make the bundles too large or the bottles won't stay together. If the bottles are hard to tie in groups, use duct tape to bundle them instead.

Create two large garbage bags by cutting the bags open and taping them together with duct tape. Place the bundles of plastic bottles in the elongated garbage bags. Form two sausage-shaped floaters. Secure the garbage bags with duct tape. Stretch out two sheets of netting. Make sure the netting can be pulled all the way around the floaters. Tie the netting around the floaters and secure it with twine. You should now have two long pontoons covered in netting. Secure any imperfections with duct tape.

Turn the wooden pallet upside down. Take your rope and tie one pontoon to one side of the pallet and the other pontoon to the opposite side of the pallet. Make sure they are securely attached. Flip the raft over and double-check that everything is sturdy and solid. The raft can now be placed in the water. Use your oars to paddle your raft when you are out on the water.

Tip

Customize your raft with paint, stickers or a flag.

Add a sail or a motor to your raft for extra control and propulsion.

Test your raft in a swimming pool before taking it out on open water.

Warning

Always make sure to wear a life jacket when using your raft.

Do not use your raft in dangerous areas or over harsh rapids.

Do not start fires on your raft.

About the Author

Rowan Wood began writing various forms of fiction and nonfiction over 20 years ago. Wood has had editorials published in the local "Times" newspaper and has had work featured in magazines like "PC Zone" and "WebUser Magazine." Wood specializes in fiction writing, visual art, film, crafting and game design.