new uses for plastic grocery bags

8 Ways to Reuse Plastic Bags (Until They’re Banned)

A new U.N. report calls for a plastic bag ban. Until then, you can act to keep plastic-related contaminants from ending up in your food.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The plastic shopping bag is as much of an ecopariah these days as Hummers and executive bonuses. And it’s about to sink even lower. Achim Steiner, executive director for the United Nations Environment Programme, recently called for a worldwide ban on plastic bags, after his agency released a report analyzing the growing global problem of marine litter. A large portion of that ocean trash comes from plastic items and plastic bags, which find their way into oceans either from coastal areas or from being blown off garbage trucks and barges as they transport trash from urban areas to landfills. Once they land in the ocean, the plastic trash does double damage: It absorbs industrial contaminants in the water, such as mercury and DDT, and then gets eaten by marine animals that mistake it for food. If the animals don’t choke on the plastic, they may wind up in fishing nets, and all those industrial contaminants absorbed by the plastic wind up back on our plates.

Here are 8 ways to keep plastic packaging out of the ocean:

1. Pick up dog poop. No need to waste money buying special doggie-doo bags. Reuse your plastic produce, frozen veggie, or bread bags instead. Just be sure to flush Fido’s output down the toilet; tossing it in the trash could contaminate groundwater supplies near landfills.
2. Pad your next package. Protect valuable shipments with crumpled-up plastic bags, not foam packing peanuts. Include a note asking the recipient to do the same.
3. Reuse them for produce. Produce bags—the ones that you put your loose fruit and veggies in—are flimsier than regular plastic grocery bags, but can hold light items. That includes more produce, so toss them into your reusable grocery bags and bring them back to the market. If the bags get wet, hang them up to dry before storing them, to prevent mildew growth.
4. Keep homemade wipes inside them. If you have kids, or are just generally messy all by yourself, reuse small plastic bags, such as those that come wrapped around new electronics, to store a damp washcloth in your car. You’ll cut down on trash and save money by not buying wet wipes.
5. Protect your hands. Next time you have to clean the toilet and your rubber gloves have gone missing, wrap your hands in the plastic bag your toilet paper came in. Or use the last dregs of that roll of plastic cling wrap as cover if the phone rings while your hands are gunked-up from cleaning, cooking, or gardening.
6. Line a cracked pot or flower vase. Frozen vegetable bags are perfect for this, given that they’re very thick and the perfect size. Slip the bag down into a cracked vase that’s still pretty enough to display but leaky enough to be a water hazard.
7. Stuff a mattress. Distressed by the sight of thin, single-use plastic grocery bags littering the Mexican landscape, one smart-minded resident of San Miguel de Allende started using them to stuff mattresses for poor children who would otherwise have to sleep on the ground. You can use the bags to add more heft to old cushions or as stuffing for homemade throw pillows. If you have an old zippered pillowcase and a small-enough dog, you can turn the pillowcase into a plastic-bag–stuffed dog bed. One caveat: This isn’t a good idea for puppies with an inclination to chew pillows to bits. They can choke on the plastic.
8. Use them to collect beach trash. Probably the noblest use of all, use your trash to pick up someone else’s. During Ocean Conservancy’s 2007 International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers removed 6 million tons of trash from the world’s beaches, and eight of the 10 most common items they found were made from plastic. Keep a plastic bag on hand when you visit the beach and instigate your own volunteer cleanup. Also bring a bag or two if you go hiking, or even walking through your neighborhood.


Published on: June 16, 2009

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I agree

I disagree on banning bags. I use cloth bags and insulated bags when I shop,but usually take 1 plastic bag home with me for my small amount of trash. I use them for whatever small amount of trash I have- usually it's just things like chicken bones. why should I shell out an outrageous amount of money to purchase trash bags that are full of chemicals? Grocery bags are almost the only plastic that comes into this household and they are used, reused, and re-reused before they go to the trash can as a last resort. (the other is 1 qt yogurt cups that also get either recycled or put to work) If I could get away with just dumping the trash into the barrel without a bag, I would do that. As it is, very little goes out there to start with as everything that can possibley be recycled gets recycled or composted.

trash bags.

I use plastic bags to help get my styrofoam fires started. They catch right away, burn hot, and produce a nice aroma.

crocheting plastic bags together

Could you please send the pattern to me? I would LOVE to use my excess bags this way. Wonderful idea! My email is: Thanks, Judie

Plastic bags

I see no reason to continue using plastic bags. When I go to the market, etc., I use the cloth bags which were either given to me or I bought for $1.00. However, as I am checking out, I notice there are "rarely" any people using the cloth bags. In some cases, such as my neighbors, I know they were given cloth bags, but do not use them.

Thank you for your article on using plastic bags for various reason until they are banned.

shopping bags

I have a pattern for crocheting the bags, after they have been cut into strips and tied together, into extra heavy duty shopping bags. They are strong and waterproof and really look great.

Throwing dog poop in the toilet

That is a first in seeing that recommended. Does anyone seriously do that?

And I second the food pantry idea - we always take our bags (especially Target bags as they are thicker) to use in the pantry. Learned that from when I would volunteer in ours.

plastic bags

I use the bags when cleaning the litter box daily and in my small waste cans. If they ban these plastic shopping bags, I will have to buy litter bags and trash bags. I don't see this as improving the environment.

plastic bags

Take them to your local food bank. The bank's clients can use the bags to take home their food.

More uses for plastic grocery bags

When my children were still in diapers I used the plastic bags to wrap up the soiled diapers, it cut down on the smell tremendously and I could toss the diaper into the regular trash, instead of using those diaper genie systems. I also reuse the plastic bags to make rope with, I tie several of the bags to together and can hold items in place in my garage, when I'm finished with the rope, I can either reuse it or recycle it. Another way I reuse the plastic bags for lining the inside of my potted plants decorative containers to prevent leaking, several of my plants are sitting inside of wicker baskets and I line the inside of the wicker basket with the plastic bag and than place the potted plant into the wicker basket, than I can put the plant anywhere in my home and not worry about leaks when I water them. The plastic bags can also be used as fillers for gift baskets that way the gift items sit raised up from the bottom of the basket and the basket looks full of goodies instead of half empty. Lastly, I like to keep my expensive purses looking nice, so that they retain their shape when I'm not using them I stuff the insides with the plastic bag and than put them in the storage bag that comes with the purses, it also makes it easier to spot slean the pusre when its filled out.

Reuse by sending it to a jewelry maker!

I know someone on who uses plastic grocery bags to make really unique jewelry. She has beautiful designs and they are all made from recycled plastic bags. Just do a search for her (by searching for "recycled bags") and contact her. She is always looking for extra bags! There are even a few more jewelry designers on there that might be interested as well!

Another use for plastic bags

Make "plarn". Narrow strips can be cut either crosswise as loops or in a continuous strip. Connect loops as you would rubberbands to make a long strand. Either loops or strips can then be crocheted or knitted into a new reusable bag. Other thoughts: a footwiper by the back door, a can cosy with handle or not, a kneeling mat for garden use.... (Google and YouTube both have more information.)

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