For anyone who follows my parental tales online, you’ll be aware that my kids love their music… I use the term ‘music’ in its loosest form here. My long-suffering neighbours are also well aware of this ‘musical’ side my children have.

Edie and Arlo put on shows for us all the time, and with this never-ending balmy summer, we’re treated to open air gigs most evenings, before their bed time – who needs Camp Bestival? I’ll tell you who; people who still have their ear drums intact, unlike me, my wife or those previously mentioned long-suffering neighbours.


Edie will play her weird electric-guitar-stroke-keyboard-stroke-laser-light-show thing (god knows what it really is), whilst Arlo will fill his lungs to near bursting point before unloading his youthful breath through an electric blue, err, saxophone thingamajig – I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be a saxophone, but whoever designed these kids’ musical instruments might have been a cymbal short of a drumkit when they drew up the designs.

So, with said terrible musical instruments in mind, when Coca-Cola Great Britain challenged me to ‘upcycle my summer’ to celebrate their new reverse vending machine trial with Merlin Entertainments, it immediately struck me that as a family, we could make instruments better than the ones currently filling (destroying) our ears. Of course, the key message from Coca-Cola Great Britain is to ultimately recycle plastic bottles, but fun can certainly be had with said bottles before they head off to the local recycling plant.

When I first dreamt up this idea, I questioned my own judgement, as knocking-up a collection of musical instruments isn’t your usual arts and crafts summer holiday activity. But, every parent knows the summer holidays go on forever, and with Edie seemingly not returning to school this millennium, I felt this challenge would introduce her (and Arlo to a lesser extent) to a large-scale upcycling project and would thankfully keep her from wasting her time off watching the television. Edie and Arlo have already had a taste of upcycling in the past by cutting up plastic bottles and yoghurt pots to make small plant pots and bird feeders, but I knew because of their fondness for performing, building a band’s worth of instruments would really excite them and heighten their interest. Also, as a stay-at-home dad, I also knew it would be a great way to spend some quality time with them.

The children have collected a mountain of bottles because of Coca-Cola Great Britain’s previous challenge (link to blog here), and have added to them since then (even nabbing used bottles from neighbours and grandparents). For our band to get grooving (did I really just write that?! – sorry kids, if you ever read this, I promise I wasn’t that much of an embarrassing dad), here’s what we’ve done and what’s still left for the remainder of these summer hols:

1.       Maracas: ok, ok, so a nice easy one to start with. We’ve simply filled a couple of bottles with some rice and pasta. Tick, done.

2.       Microphones: again, not that much of a biggie; we’ve shaped some bottles to resemble microphones and have been trying to use the hollow centre to amplify our voices. Tick, done.

3.       Drums: the most ambitious instrument, but also the most fun to make. Tick, done (but not sure Ringo would approve!)

4.       Woodwind / brass: I’d love to 100% state here and now which instrument we’ll make, but let’s face it, with kids, a lot of it is trial and error. It might be a saxophone or a huge trombone, but in reality, we might be left with a flimsy recorder. To do.

5.       Guitars: if we’re going to play Wembley next summer, we need some guitars. To do.


I’m positive this upcycled set-up is going to be the future of music! Ok, maybe not, but it’s been good fun putting it all together so far and has helped demonstrate to the children that recycling needn’t be boring. It’s also given them a focus and inexpensive project for the summer holidays, and finally, I told them I had a little treat lined up to reward them for their plastic collection and excellent craftmanship.

As I mentioned earlier, Coca-Cola Great Britain has partnered with Merlin Entertainments, rewarding people for recycling on-the-go at four of its attractions by offering 50% off entry. All you have to do is recycle a 500ml plastic bottle in the big red reverse vending machines at LEGOLAND Windsor, Thorpe Park, Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures. This can be ANY brand, not just Coca-Cola bottles, so to see this scheme in action and to reward the kids for their hard work, last week I took them to our local Merlin Entertainments attraction, LEGOLAND Windsor.


We’ve been to LEGOLAND a number of times before as it’s so close to us, and they absolutely love it there, so it was the obvious choice. Upon arriving at the site, with three empty 500ml bottles in our hands, we parked up and made our way to the entrance. Just before the main entrance I saw what we’d come for; the reverse vending machines. Large red machines standing there, tall and shiny, ready for some to be put to the test. We took turns to put our bottles into the machines and within seconds, a 50% off voucher printed. So, so simple and it was great to see the kids being rewarded for their recycling efforts. Also, when I try and explain to the children what happens with their usual recycling, I think it’s difficult to visualise a recycling plant (I struggle to visualise it myself, so I’m guessing they have a very minimal grasp), so to actually see their used bottle go into the machine and then to receive a voucher that gives 50% off Merlin Entertainments attractions in return, it’s a tangible action that hopefully they can have a decent understanding of.


I was hugely impressed with this initiative from Coca-Cola Great Britain and Merlin Entertainments and I’m sure it’ll be a huge success in raising further awareness that Coca-Cola Great Britain is fully committed to recovering all packaging, so that more is recycled, with none of it ending up in our streets or oceans. This fantastic resourcefulness from Coca-Cola and Merlin Entertainments brilliantly simplifies the recycling process for on-the-go families and I hope such reward schemes are rolled out across the world and across multiple businesses. What I love about this campaign from Coca-Cola Great Britain, is that it demonstrates to the whole family that recycling needn’t be boring, it’s hugely important, it’ll become the norm for everyone and HOPEFULLY go a long way to cleaning up our oceans.

Anyway, I must get on. I’ve got plastic bottle guitars and weird and wonderful saxophones to make with the kids... This year the decking in our back garden, next year Wembley (sorry neighbours)!