Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Paper Grocery Bags
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.
- Use then as Garbage Bags. Unlike plastic garbage bags, they are biodegradable, which makes them better for the environment.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Write Letters. Out of writing paper? Cut paper bags down to sizes and use them as scrap paper to write notes or letters.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Moving Day
- 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.