Plastic bags are pretty ubiquitous these days. And, for the most part, every piece of plastic you’ve ever touched is still somewhere in the world… right now. When I start thinking of all the plastic bags I’ve ever tossed sitting in some landfill, I shudder. But, knowing is half the battle and once you “get” it, you can do better. And one of the things you can do right now is really get into reusing your plastic grocery bags. One of the reasons why they’ve become so prolific is because they are convenient, lightweight, stashable, and easily carry-able (especially if you’re a hard-o carrying twenty at a time). Plastic bags are bad for the environment, but they exist. Let’s try and mitigate the damage by using plastic grocery bags we have as many times as you can before disposing/recycling them.
So what do we do about our bags full of bags? First and primarily, try to not acquire them anymore. Use cloth/reusable bags when you can. My favorite are parachute material bags, that are lightweight and incredibly strong. Using paper bags are also a great option because they can be recycled everywhere that takes recycling. Plastic grocery bags, unfortunately, aren’t generally recyclable curbside and require taking them to a specialty center for recycling. Some major nation-wide retailers (Target, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Lowes, etc.) have bag recycling accepting stations in their store. Though, Covid has caused some stores to update their polices. Always call first. Click here to find out where there is a plastic grocery bag recycling center near you. Get to know where yours is!
But, if you got ’em. Use ’em. Here are 15 ways to reuse your plastic grocery bags you may not have considered.
Travel Bags: When you are traveling, and every pound in your luggage counts, plastic grocery bags become a shining, weightless superstar. You know I love packing cubes, but when the weight perimeters are a factor, I’ve subbed out my packing cubes for plastic bags. And they’re great for carrying toiletries. Keep wet swimsuits, or sandy shoes away from the rest of your everything. Or, forget the sand, they make great regular shoe bags, as well. They are also perfect for dirty laundry bags. They are just about the size of a load of wash, so you know when you need to do laundry. Hang the bag on a door knob. And if/when they get gross, THEN you can recycle/toss them.
Sink Liner: If you know and love someone with a beard or moustache, or you like to cut your own hair, you know how much hair gets everywhere. Line your sink with a plastic grocery bag and all the trimmings are already in one place, making cleanup super easy. This could also fall under the gardening header, because when I’m repotting, I also line my sink with a plastic grocery bag for the same reasons. When I’m all done re-potting something, none of the soil has gone down the drain and I can reuse the excess. If you’re doing something over your sink, considering lining it first, if applicable.
Box Packing Filler: Shipping something? Pad out a box with plastic grocery bags. They’re lightweight and won’t smudge your items like newspaper.
Gardening: Plastic grocery bags are great for all sorts of gardening tasks. They are perfect for making and holding custom soil mixtures. You can store all kinds of gardening tools in plastic grocery bags. Keeping the dirt where it needs to be and where you can use it again. You can even use them as a pot!
Dealing with Things You Don’t Want to Touch: Don’t have any gloves? No problem! Dog owners have known this for years, but it applies to all sorts of things– especially these days, during a pandemic. Anytime you need a barrier between you and something, a plastic bag can be really handy.
Small Task Clean Up: When cleaning a bathroom, a smaller task than, say, cleaning the garage, it is smart to use a plastic grocery bag. Hang it on the door knob, and toss trash in it. When you’re done, tie up the bag, and toss it. I keep a plastic bag wrangler under all my sinks.
Fake Snow for Indoor Decorating: If you’ve got white grocery bags, in a pinch, you can create a winter wonderland two ways. Way the first, shape and fluff them into the desired shape, making sure any logos are on the bottom. It makes a great environmentally conscious tree skirt. And, bonus, the plastic reflects holiday lights! A second (way messier) way to do this is to shred your plastic bags into tiny pieces. You can buy it pre-shredded, but where’s the fun in that? Speaking of the holidays, plastic bags also make a GREAT way to wrap/pad ornaments when you store them.
Project Wranglers: Keep all the pieces of your projects together. If you’re a crafter with a work-in-progress, keep all the pieces wrangled in the same place. It’s super portable AND you can write on the bag to make it identifiable!
Anything You’re Giving Away: If you’re donating stuff or dropping something off at a friends house, drop it off in a plastic bag. It’s one less thing to worry about getting back.
Car Trash Bag: Plastic grocery bags make great car trash bags. Keep the garbage corralled, or at least have it on hand for when you DO decide to clean out your car.
Shredder Liner: Lining your document shredder with a plastic or paper grocery bag makes emptying time infinitely much cleaner. Fold a few extra bags and place in the bottom of your shredder so you’ll know where they are next time.
Small Trash Can Liners: No one ever needs to scrape an unwrapped lozenge and dried sticky Kleenex from the bottom of a bathroom trashcan again. Pop a plastic grocery bag in your bathroom trash case and use and resume them until they get gross. Keep some folded at the bottom of your trash cans and shredder so you’ll always know where they are when they need to be changed.
Arts & Crafts: Because they are the backbone of the world, it comes as no surprise that the arts and crafts world has taken on the plastic bag problem. A cursory search will yield tons of awesome ideas on how to use bags for crafts. A popular option is cutting the bag into strips and using it as “yarn” to crochet. And while there are a million plastic bag crafts I can endorse, one I can’t are the plastic fusing tutorials. It’s a cool idea, in theory. Except, heating and ironing plastic bags release fumes that are extremely harmful. Much like removing paint from plastic containers, it’s just not worth it. Plastic grocery bags are also great if you are painting. If you want to keep your brushes wet to use later, wrap them in plastic grocery bags and put them in the refrigerator.
Toilet Tools Caddy: I’ve had fancy plunger-hiders, but it always seemed like another thing that was, “unclean”. Just another something that the plunger made dirty. I keep all my toilet tools in a plastic grocery bag. And, if you have to move them, you’ve got handles.
Reuse Them as Actual Grocery Bags: Take them to the grocery store. I feel like this is a no brainer, but, sometimes everyone needs a reminder. They fold easy, are lightweight, and are highly smush-able. Keep some in your car as more than just a car trash bag. When I’m transporting big projects, plastic grocery bags also make great temporary sorting stations. Again, you can write on them, labeling them for easy recognition.
Again, plastic bags are bad for the environment, but they exist. Let’s try and mitigate the damage by using plastic grocery bags as many times as you can before disposing/recycling.