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Reusing Plastic Bags

Category Reusing
So many products come packaged in plastic bags. This is a guide about reusing plastic bags.


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Kelly Ann Butterbaugh4 found this helpful
March 9, 2011

There can never be enough trashy treasures in the world. When craft supplies are free and working double duty to keep landfills free, the urge to make more and more grows. Yet, few crafters realize that free fabric and yarn comes home with every trip to the grocery store. Take stock of your plastic shopping bags and consider "upcycling" them.

Plastic Yarn

Today the conscientious consumer brings canvas grocery bags with him/her to the store, but there are times when the dismal plastic bag finds its way into the home. Some grocery stores offer recycling programs for their plastic shopping bags, but why not give them one more purpose before returning them? By crocheting plastic shopping bags into large tote bags you could create fun and frugal waterproof swimming totes. The best part of these totes is that they're essentially free, so if your kids leave every bag that you send to school on the bus it's no great loss.

The trick is to make "yarn" from the plastic shopping bag. Start cutting a 1/2 inch wide strip from the top of the shopping bag all the way down in a spiral pattern to get the longest single strip possible from each bag. Then, crochet away using any pattern you find for a tote bag.

Interested in making other trash to treasure waterproof items? Simply start stripping your bags into plastic yarn and find a pattern.

Plastic Fabric

Since you've now discovered that plastic shopping bags are a free source for waterproof yarn, experiment by using them as waterproof material as well. Cut the side of a bag open so that it lays flat and remove the handles. Then, place several bags together between two layers of parchment paper and iron it on the rayon setting (or whatever is closest). Iron both sides in a well ventilated area. The plastic will melt, fusing the bags together into one piece of "fabric." Be careful handling the hot plastic and parchment.

When fusing, any ink on the bags will melt off during the process. Place a clear bag on top of the patterned bag when fusing. This keeps the ink from melting into a large mess but allows you to see the design through the clear bag once the stack is fused together.


Now you have plastic "fabric" for any items you want to create. Consider creating place mats. Using real fabric strips, create a frame of fabric around several layers of your plastic bag fabric, folding the fabric under to create an edge. These place mats can be made in whatever sizes you like, and they can be used for children's play mats during crafting.

If crocheting isn't your talent, try sewing the fused plastic bag fabric into a tote bag, a purse, or a lunch bag. Some creative uses for the fused plastic fabric include stitched raincoats and notebook/photo album covers.

For quilters, look at portions of the grocery bags as pieces of quilting fabric. A crazy quilt design made out of fused plastic grocery bags is more than interesting. Create a tablecloth for your patio table out of the waterproof fabric. Consider purchasing a large piece of clear acrylic, creating a fused plastic mosaic design, and framing it behind the acrylic by screwing it to an outside patio wall. Landscape designs can be made from the various colored bags found at the stores.


The options for plastic grocery bag recycling are endless. Turn this environmental threat into something beautiful and relax on the days when your fabric shopping bags are forgotten. Turn trash to treasure and turn negatives into positives with your crafty know how.

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By 5 found this helpful
April 22, 2010

I worked in the yard this week, and realized a great way to use the bags that mulch or soil come in, is to cut them up and use them as weed blocking plastic. I dumped the mulch into a large storage bin that I had outside, cut up the plastic, laid it out and then covered with the mulch. As the weeds have taken over this past year, this will be a lot of help.

I also used some pet food and litter bags this week as weed blocking plastic. Just pulled the bulk of the weeds, laid down the bags (with the bottoms cut out and opened), and covered with mulch.


By Chris from USA

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February 12, 2010

You can make a leaky or non-waterproof container suitable to use as a vase by using a plastic bag as a liner and filling the bag with water.

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March 4, 2010

Save long skinny plastic bags or tubes of plastic, because they have many uses. I just stapled the folded-over end of a sturdy plastic tube to make an extra eyeglass case and I have used the long skinny bags to hold my flutes/recorders!

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November 18, 20050 found this helpful

Save the reclosable package from lunch meat after a sandwich lunch. Rinse and use to hold the leftover piece of tomato. It will not wilt.

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January 18, 20010 found this helpful

Save those large plastic bags that are delivered to you when you order from UPS delivery service. They are great for lining the outside garbage can.

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By 0 found this helpful
February 4, 2016

I recycle my grocery plastic bags, by filling them up with trash as they hang by the sink. When full, I close them and put them in my trash can. That way I recycle two ways.


After I take out the trash from kitchen to the trash can I get to reuse my trash bag if it's still in immaculate condition.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 2 found this helpful
July 15, 2009

This is almost like the question, which came first the chicken or the egg, but here it is: Is it kinder/cheaper to our environment to use the reusable grocery bags and use trash can liners? Or is it kinder/cheaper to the environment to use the grocery plastic bag exclusively as trash bags?

By Meemaw


July 17, 20090 found this helpful

One of the two items kills only replaceable trees, the other kills people by the air pollution during the toxic mfg. AND the disposal fumes.

Don't stress out over it. There are truly plenty of trees in the Amazon, NW US Territories, Alaska, and forests that don't have to live to be 2,000 and whose seedlings replace the original just in time unless forest fires or pests/chemicals destroy the trees.

Plastic items are all toxic, regardless, but necessary for odors, rodent/stray population mngmt. I recycle boxes and that works well. I place smelly things in recycled plastic bags only. Cleaning/carrying mega-totes doesn't work for me and the cheap ones don't last at the seams.

Answer is to buy the least in the simplest containers, only what you will use, so that there's less waste to worry about disposing of. If you have pets, shred all paper and use in place of expensive "bitter-glitter-litter"! lol

Recycle newsprint and junk mail in every way possible. Take cans, glass, thick plastic in a box to recycling centers receptacles. Don't let it clutter your home as I have far too long...a nightmare/trouble!

Don't let anyone, anything pressure you into a stroke over such things. Life has far more important things now to be concerned about. Your health/sanitation is more important than recycling at all, for instance, IF you live in a small already cluttered home like mine, full of repair items, recycled wood/paint/chemicals/ odd things I may never use constructively as I planned.

Life is way too short to spend it being worried or immaculate, so just do what seems right to and for you and your health. God bless and help you. : )

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July 17, 20090 found this helpful

Reusing the grocery bags is penny wise, as you don't have to spend so much on can liners. When shopping, I always request that the larger items not be placed in bags. It just seems redundant to put a bag of potatoes, cat food, detergent, etc. in a bag. Warehouse stores like B.J.'s and Costco save HUGE bucks by not bagging their items.

Personally, I recycle my plastic grocery bags as trash can liners and to clean out my kitty litter. I recycle my paper grocery bags (yes, some stores still use them) by placing all my newspapers and cardboard in them for recycling. That way the papers/cardboard do not come untied or get messy and the entire package is recyclable.

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July 17, 20090 found this helpful

I use reusable bags as often as possible, which is most of the time. But there is always going to be the time I run into the store for two things on my lunch hour and don't have a sack with me. I found that before I used the reusable green bags that I had WAY more plastic bags than I would ever use for can liners and kitty litter. I would bring them back for recycling, but found out that most of those bags get dumped, not recycled. I feel that now I have now struck a balance between what I need and what I have.

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July 17, 20090 found this helpful

For us, it just makes sense to go ahead and bring the smaller items home in the plastic grocery bags, then reuse them in wastebaskets around the house, and in the kitchen for scraps while preparing food. We then can tie the tops of the smaller bags when they are filled up, and take them all to the trash can outside, preventing any invitations to mice, or roaches, etc. As one person commented, just don't have all the things bagged, if they are already in something that will carry all by itself. We are not necessarily "tree huggers" but do feel responsible for what we waste.

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July 19, 20090 found this helpful

I reuse the grocery bags for inconitence disposal (otherwise I'd be buying more plastic) and cat litter disposal (otherwise I'd be putting it in the toilet and that's not good. I like to use them for daily garbage disposal so the can doesn't collect flies and bugs, but I don't have enough...sometimes I take the ones for recycling from the I doing wrong? I'm recycling them again and am not buying bags that would increase the number of bags produced.

In the best of all possible worlds, I would compost all my organic waste except human, and be able to recycle everything else. See Berkeley, CA's recycling program. I loved it. In Tennessee, they collect, but throw in the landfill anyway.

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July 20, 20090 found this helpful

I try to make sure I don't end up with more disposable plastic shopping bags than I can use, but I'd rather use them then buy trash can liners if I can. The trash can liners not only cost more, but they have more packaging and are generally made of more plastic, which makes them heavier and more costly - financially and environmentally - to transport.

I also don't like using my reusable bags to carry items like meat. The reusable bags end up with all kinds of mold and bacteria in them (which can make you sick). You can wash them, but then you not only greatly shorten their life span, but you use more water/detergent/energy.

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July 22, 20090 found this helpful

I know plastic bags are a big problem as trash on the roadside, getting into the water streams and washing into the ocean yet, I think they are the best thing that was ever invented and I would hate to see them not in use. I love my free plastic bags. I have so many uses for them.

I remember when there were only big paper bags for bagging grocerys. Many times the bag split before I got it into the house and grocerys spilled all over the place. Like the plastic bags, I also saved the paper bags and used them for other purposes but they took up so much space.

I believe folks can be more careful when handling plastic bags and not let them become litter and recycling those that you do not use is a must.

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July 25, 20090 found this helpful

The worst possible thing to do in this situation is to NOT recycle the plastic bags, or the paper ones. In the paper vs.plastic debate, I personally prefer paper bags, as they can be recycled curbside (and hold other paper recyclables at the same time), hold more, and come from a renewable resource. Then again, plastic bags serve more post-grocery purposes and are fashioned out of a byproduct of the petroleum refining process. The bottom line is: are you planning to reuse the bags(plastic) OR just recycle?(paper)

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September 10, 20090 found this helpful

To me, recycling is very important and I recycle everything that our county convenient site will take which leaves the two of us with very little trash to dispose of.

To be able to take out the trash most every day, I use a couple of plastic grocery bags. I have a small waste basket lined with a plastic grocery bag sitting inside my tall kitchen trash can. To raise the level of the waste basket, I have it sitting on 2 large coffee cans. On top of that, I have a flattened cereal box and on top of that I have a folded newspaper. On top of that sits my waste basket. This is for dry trash. Any large items like cereal boxes and packaging are flattened and placed behind the waste basket until I can take it to the outside container.

Wet and smelly trash goes into a 1 gallon ice cream container that has a lid and a plastic grocery bag in it.

At the end of the day, I take the stinky trash, tie it up and put it in the bag with all the other trash that has been collected from the kitchen and other rooms in the house. I tie the hangles together and put the bundle of trash in the container outside.

Although I do use the tall kitchen trash bags occasionally when I have company, I have been using this method for collecting our daily household trash for over a year and have not had to purchase any more trash bags and still have an ample supply on hand.

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June 20, 20100 found this helpful

I lived in Tennessee a few years ago. They offered no recycling where I lived and didn't seem to be concerned about the environment at all. They weren't even too concerned about what you put in your trash. Now I live in a state where things are the opposite. It seems like some of the states are canceling each other out when it comes to our health. I use cloth grocery bags but put my meat in the plastic bags provided for it. Now after reading these comments I think I will reserve a bag or two for meat and produce and wash them and put the boxed items in the rest.

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Answer this Question...


Share on ThriftyFunCheck out these photos. Click at right to share your own photo in this guide.

March 12, 2012

Here is a rug I made in 16 parts from packaging leftover from an insulation job we did. Each part is the size of a standard place mat.

Approximate Time: about a week



  1. Begin by readying your materials, cutting strips the desired width for your project.
  2. Weave as few or as many parts as you want to complete a rug the size you want it to be.
  3. Connect the parts in the manner you wish them to be, at the edges.

I must say, this was very personally rewarding!

There are more photos on my personal blog:

By melody_yesterday from Otterville, MO

Woven Rug from Recycled Insulation Bags

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