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Fifty Ways To Make Good Use Of An Old Carrier Bag Or Thousand

Updated on April 13, 2015

Reusing, recycling and reclaiming your old bags

There is no getting away from the fact that plastic bags are here to stay. Whether we like it or not, almost every home has a stock of them somewhere.

If you’ve got some you want to make good use of, here are a few ideas of what to do with them. The majority require that the bags are not torn, and some require them to be airtight. However, there is still something you can do with torn and shredded bags …

  1. Reuse any sound bag for your shopping
  2. Use one bag to keep all the rest in – tie a knot in the handles of the outer bag and the contents won’t spill out. Bags can then be removed one by one as necessary
  3. Get rid: donate them to your local charity or secondhand shop for them to use
  4. Use them to line your waste bins around the house - eventually they will go to waste themselves but at least you won't have bought any new bags to line your bins with
  5. Use them to collect waste food, tin cans, etc when on a picnic. Again, they will go to waste, but that's better than littering the countryside
  6. Carrier bags make adequate “emergency antiseptic” bags for tampons, disposable nappies, or other non bio-degradable waste if you're caught short in the countryside
  7. Use as gloves when handling anything potentially toxic, e.g. weedkiller. You can tie the handles to your wrists to prevent them slipping off though you may need help with the second hand!
  8. Pick up your dog’s poo and dispose of it without getting anything on your hands
  9. Wrap wet, used or dirty clothes after use and keep separate from your clean clothes in your suitcase when travelling. Likewise, wrap your shoes in a bag and any foreign matter from the soles won't get on your clothes
  10. Tied and bundled together, torn and worn carrier bags can make a usable football or volleyball, so long as the outer few layers are quite strong. If you don’t have many bags but do have some polystyrene tiles, for example, use the tiles to bulk out the centre before wrapping well in bags
  11. Small bags tied and bundled together can make a workable stress ball (smaller version of 10)
  12. Tied and bundled together torn bags can make a usable seat, for example, for use in meditation on hard ground; or if you have a boil on your posterior and no rubber ring
  13. Several “seats” (see 12) can be bagged together with a stronger bag to make a usable pouffe
  14. Small versions of the above (see 12) can make excellent knee pads for use in the garden or when working on any hard floor surface. Careful tying of the handles can even secure them to back of your legs
  15. A single bag can be a fast and efficient protective seat for a damp bench or on the beach, for example
  16. Make a temporary hat, or raincoat if caught short without an umbrella in the rain
  17. Tear apart and re-stitch bags to make clothes or fancy dress
  18. Line your boots to prevent water passing from your boots through to your socks and/or feet
  19. Any non-waterproof shoes without sharp heels, like trainers, can be protected from mud or puddles with overshoes made from plastic bags tied at the ankles
  20. Faux Painting techniques
  21. Use as a paint applicator – tie a bag to your wrist and use as a glove. Dip it in the paint before applying, to railings for example – your fingers will get in those nooks and crannies quicker than a brush. A good strong airtight bag is recommended
  22. Lay several bags out on the ground and hold down with stones or lengths of wood to protect the ground surface from paint splashes when decorating
  23. Make rope
  24. Emergency dog collar/lead (variation of rope, 23)
  25. An emergency binding, or chain link can be provided with a carrier bag, given that it is not as strong as steel, but just as good as string in a tough spot (variation of 23).
  26. Protect breakables, like ornaments, with scrunched up carrier bags, the finer the better, as an alternative to polystyrene or newspaper. Ideal if you are moving house or sending parcels in the mail – torn or broken bags work just as well as good bags
  27. Hard items, like all your knives and forks, can be placed in strong carrier bags, wrapped and placed in the gaps in the same box as breakables. Not only will the breakables be protected by the bulk of the carrier bag, but the knives and forks won’t jangle either
  28. Bag up old pairs of shoes for recycling
  29. Make an easy ice pack – simply put the ice cubes in an airtight bag and tie tight
  30. As a firelighter – not advisable because of the toxic fumes, but useful in case of an “emergency”
  31. Screwed up and wetted, a carrier bag makes a workable “sponge” to clean any hard surface, for example, car headlights
  32. Weight loss aid
  33. Collectors collect everything else: milk bottle tops, beer labels, why not carrier bags?
  34. Li-lo – blow-up airtight bags and tie them together to make a float of any size
  35. Blow up a bag and tie it carefully to make a beach ball for use in the swimming pool
  36. Vinyl record protective sleeves (preferably clear, at least 12 inches square and without expanding flaps)
  37. Book jackets: protect book covers from wear, or simply disguise the cover if you’re reading something you’re embarrassed about on the train. Use a heavy coloured bag, open it out, cut it and shape to fit. Secure with tape. People will think you're reading some trendy fashion biog!
  38. Flattened and folded, a flimsy carrier bag makes a suitable bookmark without bulging out the pages of the book
  39. Use as a food cooler when picnicking. Put food and drink in a carrier bag, place it in a slow-moving river or pool and secure with a stone or stake with a twig. Beer never tasted so good
  40. Fresh food sealant. If you have a half-eaten bag of crisps, for example, that you want to save for later, then roll the packet up and place in a carrier bag. Squeeze out the air and tie a knot in the carrier bag to make an airtight seal.
  41. A strong hole-free bag can make an adequate water carrier. Sadly it doesn't pour well
  42. A small hole-free bag filled with water can make a suitable goldfish carrier
  43. Warming soup, for example, in a dirty or burnt saucepan can be achieved without transferring bad flavours to the soup if placed inside a carrier bag before placing it in water in the pan. The bag should be sterile and free of holes of course and of a kind not in anyway toxic to health
  44. Fill carrier bags with quantities of water to make water balloons for good, cheap, water fight fun in the summer
  45. Place a stone or small heavy object in a carrier bag, swing it round and let go and you have a catapult for stunning rabbits, if that’s your fancy. The bag will need retrieving whether you hit the target or not, but you will soon get the hang of it
  46. Make a BANG! Pop a bag to signal the beginning of a race, for example
  47. A (preferably sterile) carrier bag can be used to protect an open wound from further infection, especially if outdoors, where no other first aid equipment is available. Cling-film is better suited for this purpose, but is less likely to be in your pocket
  48. Sweat organic substances in a carrier bag to encourage the growth of mould
  49. A plastic bag, tied tight, makes passable plastic pants for a baby where a safety pin is not available or, indeed, if regular plastic pants have split (for users of terry nappies)
  50. Save water by part-filling an airtight plastic bag, tying a knot in it and placing it in your toilet cistern away from the mechanisms. Every time the cistern drains the water enclosed in the bag will be saved, therefore saving water from being flushed away.

Please note ...

The author takes no responsibility for any accidents or injuries that may occur from undertaking any of the above suggestions. You are advised to use your own common sense and by all means request more information if at all unsure about how to make good use of any suggestion.

Under no circumstances does the author suggest that you purposefully obtain plastic bags to undertake any of these suggestions (unless you collect them from family and friends who would otherwise throw them away). These are either poor man's solutions to every day problems or there are better alternatives available that do the jobs in a more environmentally-friendly way. In the meantime, while you've got the bags, you might as well make some good use of them


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    • AngelaC profile image

      AngelaC 7 years ago from Spain

      love it! Except they make you pay nearly everywhere for them now, I am in short supply, only in Eroski, mercadona and Consum do they give then away, even schleker now charge. So my plastic bag collection is non existent, i instead invested in 2 dia re usable shopping bags over a year ago for 60 cents each.. and they are still going strong... and i just love it when they offer to sell you a carrier bag in Careffour, and I say "no thanks" and pull out my eco alternative with DIA in big letters