Top 10 ways to reuse plastic grocery bags

Some plastic grocery bags can be returned to the store for recycling.
Some plastic grocery bags can be returned to the store for recycling. | Source

Plastic grocery bags. I've got 'em coming out of my ears!

I swear those little suckers are multiplying, like a Mogwai named Gizmo in a rain storm. You can take 'em home, but whatever you do, please don't feed them after midnight!

The plastic bag first blew onto the retail scene in the late 1970s. Now it's everywhere. As Dustin Hoffman was so famously told in the 1967 film The Graduate: "One word. Plastics."

As harmless as a thin, plastic bag may seem, there's a lot about the environmental impact of grocery bags that you may not know. I personally shudder to wonder where my growing collection of plastic bags would end up if they weren't sloppily spilling out from beneath my kitchen sink:

  • Littering the streets
  • Clogging drainage systems
  • Floating out in the ocean to strangle unsuspecting and undeniably adorable baby dolphins

Despite the problems with plastic bags, paper bags have issues too. They require 40-70% more energy to manufacture and create five times more solid waste than plastic bags, according to www.plasticbagrecycling.org.

It's in the bag

I love canvas shopping bags. You can find these reusable shopping bags on sale at pretty much any grocery store these days. Some stores even offer incentives, such as discounts on your purchase, if you use one. I try to keep a couple canvas bags in the trunk of my car for impromptu shopping excursions. If I forget to restock them, I would rather opt to spend the extra $1 or so to purchase a new one than use a disposable one.

The bags have all sorts of uses apart from shopping. I often use one to transport my lunch to and from work. They're also way more reliable than plastic bags which often rip and tear.

A Plastic Bag Revolution

  • 1975: National retail stores begin putting customer merchandise in plastic bags

  • 1977: Supermarket giants jump on the plastic bandwagon

  • 1982: Plastic grocery sacks with handles are introduced

  • 1990: In-store plastic bag collection and recycling programs begin

  • 1996: Four out of five grocery bags used by U.S. consumers are plastic

Source: Tricia Morris, ehow.com.

Do it for the fluffy animals

Even with my canvas bag collection, I still have a seemingly never ending stockpile of plastic bags. I have found some interesting ways to store them under my sink: Stuffed in Kleenex boxes, cardboard tubes, empty trash bag boxes and, alas, canvas shopping bags.

While many stores will recycle used grocery bags and some cities have even banned plastic bags, I have been extending their life by finding creative uses for reusing my bags at home. There are an array of ways to do it as can be found through an online search, everything from lining small garbage cans to making plastic yarn (a.k.a plarn) for knitting.

In honor of Earth Day (every day), I have put together a list of a few of my favorite ways to reuse plastic grocery bags. You can try any of these at home.

Don't do it for yourself. Don't do it for me. Do it for the fluffy, baby animals.

And the earth.

A New Bag of Tricks: 10 Practical and Fun Uses for Plastic Bags

Before & After

When it comes to shipping items in a box, plastic bags are much cleaner than those annoying styrafoam peanut things.
When it comes to shipping items in a box, plastic bags are much cleaner than those annoying styrafoam peanut things. | Source

1. Packing Material
The last time I shipped a package that I sold on ebay, I used plastic bags in lieu of bubble wrap or those ever-so annoying styrafoam peanuts. It worked like a charm.

2. Children's Rain Boots
Tie one bag around each shoe and let the puddle hopping begin. Double 'em up for extra stomping power.

3. Decorative Pillow Stuffing
Self explanatory. Technically, you could also use another plastic bag as the pillow cover.

4. Emergency Garbage
It rolls up into a small ball and can easily fit into most purses or car glove compartments, then expands at a moments notice to hold dirty tissues, candy bar wrappers, coffee cups and other garbage. Once it's filled, tie it up and dispose of it in an actual garbage can.

5. Emergency Carrier
Perfect for transporting dirty clothes, wet bathing suits, muddy shoes, or any other item that needs to stay separate from the rest of your stuff.

Geronimooooooooo!
Geronimooooooooo! | Source

6. A Parachute For G.I. Joe, Barbie Or Any Other Small Doll
Snip off the bag handles, poke four holes around the edges at an equal distance, cut four pieces of string, tie the end of one string into one hole (repeat for all four strings and holes) then tie the other end of the strings to the doll.

7. A Colorful Garden Flag
Decorate 'em, tie 'em to a stick, watch 'em fly in the breeze.

8. Comfy Knee Guards
Wrap them around your knees when you're planting flowers in your garden to protect your clothes from grass stains, water stains and dirt. Maybe you'll be so stylin' you can start a knee pad trend!

9. Groovy Wrapping Paper
When it comes to birthdays, weddings, holidays or other special occasions, I often find myself scrambling for enough wrapping paper to cover all the presents. Scramble, no more. And as an added bonus, you can even reuse your reused bags as garbage bags for the paper ripped off the more conventionally wrapped presents.

10. Disposable Gloves
No one really wants to scrub the toilet, but when it has to be done you may as well protect your hands.

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Comments 10 comments

shuck72 profile image

shuck72 4 years ago from Seattle

Great ideas I like the glove one especially. Personally I use them for dog poop picker uppers when walking the dog. Keeps the neighbors happy.


alezafree profile image

alezafree 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV Author

#shuck72 always good for everyone to keep the neighbors happy!


Deb Welch 4 years ago

Excellent stuff - like your ideas especially using plastic bags as packing in boxes for shipment, putting one everywhere as a spare trash bag and reusing really nice bags for wrapping gifts. I recently wrote the Hub - The Plastic Bag Environmental Problem - covering that part as well. Voted Up - Useful and Intersting.


alezafree profile image

alezafree 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV Author

@Deb Thanks! I just added a link to your hub. Thank you very much for calling my attention to it. And thank you for reading!!


Mary Merriment profile image

Mary Merriment 4 years ago from Boise area, Idaho

Great ideas. I have never considered some of these before!


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

As a kid I made paracuites for my action figures. And I use them as gloves when I clean. I also have a few plastics with me for emergency purposes. I guess I'm doing well when it comes to reusing plastic bags.

My wife and I are now switching to eco-friendly bags for our grocery. :)


Crystal Tatum profile image

Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

Fantastic ideas. I too tend to collect more plastic bags than I need. I especially like the parachute idea! Voted up.


alezafree profile image

alezafree 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV Author

Thanks @Crystal. I want to make a human parachute!!


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

Hi alezafree - if it works you can market it. :)


alezafree profile image

alezafree 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV Author

@jpmc LOL! Sounds like a challenge!

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