Got a collection of reusable shopping bags? Same here… but I’ll freely admit that sometimes I forget them, or decide to stop to pick things up when I don’t have them with me. You’re probably in the same boat: despite your best efforts to reduce your use of plastic shopping bags, you’ve still got a stash of them somewhere…
So what do you do with them? You definitely want to keep them out of the waste stream, so obvious uses, like lining trash cans or otherwise using them for waste disposal, aren’t the best choices. You’ve got other options, though… and, as you’ll see, your choices for responsible disposal are expanding.
How to Reuse Plastic Bags
If you’re not going to pick up the dog poop with them, or line the bathroom trash can, how can you put those plastic bags to (re)use? Turns out there are quite a few upcycling options…
- Make a sweater… or a scarf: You crafty types can turn those bags into yarn… and then knit, crochet or weave with it.
- Fuse them into “cloth”: Got an iron and some old paper? You can make cloth-like crafting material out of your bags, also.
- Protect and store food: Making a trip to the farmer’s market? Put a few of those plastic bags inside your reusable one to separate and protect the food you buy. You can also use them for storage once you get your produce and baked goods home.
How to Recycle Plastic Bags
Unfortunately, recycling these old bags isn’t often as convenient as other materials — you generally can’t put them in the curbside bin, for instance. There are still recycling options, though… and we need to do this, as the recycling statistics are pretty discouraging: about 12% of plastic bags get recycled.
- Take them back to the store: Many stores offer plastic bag recycling bins… California, New York, and now Delaware, ever have laws on the books requiring this service.The American Chemistry Council’s PlasticBagRecycling.org site has a database of drop-off locations.
- Don’t, however, view recycling as the solution: It’s especially important to focus on reducing the amount of plastic shopping bags we use, however — recycling options often aren’t available because these items present a whole host of problems for recyclers. Recycle ’em if you’ve got ’em… but do your best to avoid collecting more that need recycling. Keep in mind that “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is a hierarchy…
How do you deal with plastic shopping bags? Or, maybe more importantly, how do you ensure you don’t end with any to begin with?