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10 Ways to Reuse Your Plastic Bags

Anne is a Washington native, kayaker, hiker, and nature lover. She likes to write about ways to lessen our carbon footprint.

How to reduce your carbon footprint by reusing plastic bags

How to reduce your carbon footprint by reusing plastic bags

Reducing Plastic Pollution by Reusing Plastic Bags

Plastics can become serious pollutants if not taken care of properly. They do not decompose; they go through a process called photo-degeneration. This means that they break down with sunlight and heat, but they don't go away entirely; they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces.

Over 30 million tons of plastic a year are thrown out, and not even half gets recycled. This causes big problems for the environment. So what can we do? First, we can use less plastic, then reuse what we already have. Learn these ten different ways you can recycle your plastic bags. Last but not least, learn what you can and share what you know.

Reuse plastic bags by using them as package stuffing.

Reuse plastic bags by using them as package stuffing.

1. Use for Packing and Stuffing

Plastic is light and durable. This makes it good for so many different uses. A great way to reuse plastic bags is to use them in packaging. When you are going to mail a package, try using leftover plastic bags instead of plastic peanuts to insulate and protect your package.

You can use plastic bags the same way when it comes to Christmas decorations or when you are packing boxes to move. It also makes great stuffing. When stuffing falls out of a dog bed or pillow, try replacing the stuffing with plastic bags. It's durable and light, so you will never be able to tell the difference.

You can weave old plastic bags into almost any shape.

You can weave old plastic bags into almost any shape.

2. Make Reusable Bags or Mats

Plastic can be used just like fabric. You can weave it into bags, rugs, and hats. This is a great way to re-purpose your plastic bags because you are using them to make something you will use all the time. Woven plastic bags will last much longer than just one thin plastic bag. You can make some to use as reusable grocery bags. They are easily cleaned and durable.

To use plastic bags to weave, you will need to make plarn. Plarn is the name given to the long strips of plastic bags. Another way to use plastic bags like material is by fusing the plastic. This is when the plastic bags are melted into fabric-like squares. After you make the fused plastic, you can then sew the sheets together to make all kinds of creations.

3. Store and Stash Them for Random Use

Plastic bags can be really handy when you are in a pickle. Try stashing them in convenient places for these random events. Good places to stash them are listed below.

  • Glove box
  • A couple for your purse
  • In the hall closet
  • In your camping supplies
  • In your garden supplies
  • In your kitchen cupboard with other cleaning tools
  • With your art supplies
  • In your overnight bag

Some of these random occasions or events that might occur are also listed below.

  • When someone is carsick
  • For the trash that accumulates in the car
  • To pick up roadside litter
  • To quickly contain things like dirty diapers
  • For wet clothes
  • For wet umbrellas
  • Muddy shoes
  • To line trash cans
  • To use for art supplies
  • To use in gardening
  • To collect items left behind by guests so you can return them
Store plastic bags like tissues so you can easily pull one out whenever you need it.

Store plastic bags like tissues so you can easily pull one out whenever you need it.

4. Fill Them for Donation

Some charity shops and food banks go through large amounts of plastic bags daily. A lot of these places are nonprofit organizations. They accept donations of plastic bags all the time. Just make sure that they are in usable condition. If you are looking for places that will take your plastic bags, try libraries and food banks. Also, places that give away clothing or other free stuff.

If you or someone you know is hosting a garage sale, a few extra plastic bags will come in handy, and the customers are sure to appreciate it. You may also see if your local grocery store accepts plastic bag returns. A lot of them do now. Usually, these boxes are located by the front entrance of the building.

You can donate plastic bags full of food to food banks.

You can donate plastic bags full of food to food banks.

5. Make Arts and Crafts

Reusing your plastic bags for arts and crafts is a great idea. If what you are making is something that will be used all the time, even better. This is called up-cycling and is a great alternative to throwing out your plastics. Some great ideas of what you can make are listed below, but this is not all you can make; the sky is the limit.

  • Jewelry
  • Flowers
  • Bags
  • Purses
  • Rugs
  • Coasters
  • Jump ropes

If you can make it from material, there is a good chance you can make it out of plastic.

6. Use Them to Pick Up Dog Poop

Poop detail is a great use for those plastic bags. If you have pets, you know how important it is to pick up the poop before it smears, smells, and kills whatever it has landed on. whenever you are taking your pup for a walk, remember to bring a bag or two just in case.

Plastic bags are great for kitty litter pickup and disposal. This also goes for those who have kids in diapers. If you are not at home and have to change a leaky or stinky one, it is good to have a plastic bag on hand for containment and disposal purposes.

7. Line Trash Cans, Litter Boxes, or Other Containers

We use liners for all kinds of things, from trash to gardens. For some different ways to use plastic bags as liners, check out the list below.

  • Kitty litter boxes
  • Small trash cans
  • Garden beds
  • Flower pots
  • Beach bags
  • For shoes with holes or in really rainy weather
  • Backpacks

8. Use as Insulation

Another use for plastic grocery bags is to use them in icy situations. If you have something you want to protect from the cold, try using your leftover grocery bags. If you have plants that you want to protect from frost. Try covering them overnight with a plastic grocery bag. This creates a little barrier between your plant and the frosty weather. You can even cover your windshield with some grocery bags, and it has the same effect. This cuts down on defrosting and scraping time in the winter.

9. Get Organized

Use old plastic bags to sort and collect things around the house. This could be anything you need to sort. You could be sorting fruits and veggies from your garden or mismatched socks in the laundry room. Some different things that you can use plastic bags to sort are listed below.

  • Children's toys
  • Art supplies
  • Dirty laundry (especially when away from home)
  • Socks
  • Things you want to donate or give away
  • Plant bulbs
  • Tools
Sorting with plastic bags

Sorting with plastic bags

10. Use as Spill Prevention

If you are clumsy or if you have children, then this will help out big time. When you are transporting things from one place to another, things can get a little messy. A big one is drinks. If you are packing any kind of beverage, using a plastic bag as a barrier is a great idea so if it leaks, it doesn't mess up your stuff. This includes sippy cups and baby bottles.

This is also a good idea for makeup. I don't know how many times I have made the mistake of keeping lipstick in my purse during the summer. The end result was never good red earnings, ID, and no one appreciates a dollar bill covered in cosmetics. I finally started using a plastic bag to separate my makeup from the rest of my stuff. Sunblock is another exploder. Anything messy you pack with the rest of your stuff could probably use a plastic barrier, just in case.

I Would Love to Hear What You Think! Leave a Comment

annmackiemiller on September 05, 2014:

thanks - I love the plastic flowers

Lindsay from Fountain, Colorado on July 04, 2014:

I run a food co-op and there are certain pieces of produce (stone fruits like plums) that are best if they get bagged up, so I have our participants bring their's to recycle them. It works great!

Cuttler from HubPages on December 13, 2013:

I have a truckload of plastic bags in my kitchen and little to do with them. I think of throwing them but the environment comes into mind. This tips are just excellent. Thanks for sharing.

cjarosz on December 07, 2013:

Very interesting. I have bags flowing out my ears. We keep everyone we get. Mostly for packing and cleaning

Moronke Oluwatoyin on December 07, 2013:

This is interesting. I love to recycle plastics into bags.

Great hub. Thanks

The Reminder from Canada on December 05, 2013:

Great ideas! I rarely take bags at the grocery or stores and I always have my carry on bags but great stuff.

ratnaveera from Cumbum on December 04, 2013:

Hello Ecomomma, Thanks a lot for showing 10 ways to reuse plastic bags that have been a great challenge for clean Environment for many decades. All these things are very interesting and seem easy to follow. Thanks again for presenting this sensible Hub! Voted Up!

dragonflycolor on December 04, 2013:

Interesting! We have tons of plastic bags and use them for just about anything. However, i'm curious to try out fusing bags together. Thanks!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 02, 2013:

Very creative ways to use plastic bags. Our grocery store here has a big bin for returning them. I do keep some for lining trashcans and of course as poop bags. Voted very useful!

vibesites from United States on December 02, 2013:

Thank your for your very useful and wise tips on how to re-use plastic bags. Some of them are really, really clever and creative indeed. :)

Kukata Kali on November 29, 2013:

Thanks you! I want to try plarn now :)

torrilynn on November 28, 2013:

Thanks for the useful ways on how to use plastic bags. I didn't know what plarn was until i came across your article. voted up.

Nancy on November 28, 2013:

Those useful ways in reusing plastic bags instead of disposing it.