Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Paper Grocery Bags

Brown Paper Grocery Bags have so many uses.
Brown Paper Grocery Bags have so many uses. | Source
List of Possible Uses for Brown Paper Grocery Bags.
List of Possible Uses for Brown Paper Grocery Bags. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

Many people still like to get their groceries packed into those little, white plastic bags. They may be recyclable, but they are not the best choice. For one thing, they don’t hold very many groceries. You’re lucky to get two or three grocery items in those little bags. And, because there are so many of those plastic bags, it takes more effort to load all those bags into your vehicle and to carry them into the house. Then what do you do with them when you’re finished unpacking all the groceries? Do you recycle them? Do you reuse them? Do you simply toss them into the garbage to end up in the landfill? If you reuse the plastic bags for other things (e.g. garage sales), how many of those bags can you keep around the house before the house is overrun with them? Asking for brown paper bags may be a better choice. You get less paper bags per shopping trip, they fold up flat until you need them, and they too are recyclable. They have a few other advantages as well.

  1. Use then as Garbage Bags. Unlike plastic garbage bags, they are biodegradable, which makes them better for the environment.
  2. Collect Ashes. Every time you use the grill and fireplace, you end up with a pile of ashes. Simply open a paper bag and dump the ashes in it. Paper grocery bags have the added benefit of sitting up and staying open, which makes it easier for one person to do the ash dumping.
  3. Cover Packages for Mail Delivery. This is especially useful when you are reusing boxes with labels and pictures. The plain brown wrapper makes it easier to label with the addresses of the sender and recipient. You don’t need to tie it with string like we had to do in the olden days. Simply seal the seams with wide, plastic tape or strapping tape.
  4. Carry Picnic Supplies. Carry along chips, buns and paper plates to your picnic. When you’re done, reuse the brown bags as a biodegradable garbage bag
  5. Make a Halloween Mask. Remember the Unknown Comedian from the Gong Show? How about a jack-p-lantern face or a robot head? A little imagination goes a long way here.
  6. Moving Day. Packing up can be a little cheaper when you use brown grocery bags as a means of carrying some of your items. It’s cheaper than having to buy a bunch of boxes and they take up less room when you’re done moving and unpacking. If you have a bunch of boxes leftover from moving, you either have to store them or find a way to get rid of them. Paper bags can be folded and stored in a smaller space, and reused for garbage, ashes, or whatever else you need them for.
  7. Artwork. Ever have a need for a blank canvas, but can’t afford it? Use a brown paper bag. It’s great for a child’s rainy day art project too. Don’t forget the tempera paints.
  8. Patterns. For anyone into sewing or woodworking, brown paper bags are great for making patterns in a pinch, especially since the paper is fairly sturdy.
  9. Kites. Remember the old fashioned kites? We used to cut brown paper bags and fit them over a balsa wood frame. Add a spool of string and a tail made of fabric scraps, and you’ve got a mighty fine flyer.
  10. Write Letters. Out of writing paper? Cut paper bags down to sizes and use them as scrap paper to write notes or letters.
  11. Book Covers. I don’t know if schools still make the students cover their text books like we did in the olden days, but paper grocery bags make great protective covers for textbooks. Once covered, simply writing the Textbook name or subject on the front and the spine of the book cover is an easy way to figure out which book you need for each class.
  12. Packing Material. Sometimes those grocery bags don’t make it home from the store in one piece, thanks to sackers who over pack them with heavy stuff. Wad up those ripped sacks and use them for packing material.
  13. Paper Mache. Usually, everyone uses tissue paper or newspaper for their papier mache art projects. Brown grocery bags work just as well.



  • Garbage Bags
  • Ash Collection
  • Wrapping Packages
  • Picnic Supply Bags
  • Costumes
  • Moving Day
  • Artwork
  • Sewing and Craft Patterns
  • Kite Making
  • Letter Writing
  • Covering Books
  • Packing Material
  • Paper Mache

Brown paper grocery bags can also be recycled, like any other paper. The number of ways that they can be reused, other than recycling, is virtually unlimited. Use your imagination and see what other ways you can come up with. If you use them in other ways, I'd love to hear about them.

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Comments 5 comments

grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

Joan, I remember those kites! We used to have great fun making masks out of paper bags, and they didn't have to be for Halloween. We used our imagination and made up characters and monsters for everyday play! I also use paper bags for wrapping gifts. Using stamps or colored pens to add embellishments adds your own artistic flare ;) Pearl

Voted Up, Useful and Interesting


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

I had thought of a few of these ideas but learned some new ones. I have a bunch and now I am going to use them Thanks for sharing all this. Voting up and sharing...


joanwz profile image

joanwz 3 years ago from Katy, Texas Author

I remember the any-time masks as well. They were fun.


kidscrafts profile image

kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

Great suggestions! I am all for recycling!

In Ontario, since they charge for the plastic bags, they don't offer the possibility to have paper bag any more when you buy groceries :-( The stores try to push people to bring their own shopping bag. It's a good thing for the environment to encourage people to bring their own bags but I liked those brown paper bags!

And as you said... they are good for so many things!


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri

Something that we love to do with our paper bags is to cut strips of the paper bags. e fold the strips and glue the strips in such a way that makes them stronger, and then make baskets with the strips. When the baskets are finished, I like to spray them with either with a clear varnish for a natural wood look or white paint for a more wicker appearance.

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