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4 Ways to Deal with All Those Plastic Shopping Bags

A car trunk full of groceries wrapped up in plastic bags.
Belen Strehl/Shutterstock

If you have a mountain of plastic shopping bags piling up in your pantry or stuffed in a kitchen cabinet, you’re certainly not alone. Here are four ways to deal with the pile that don’t involve a landfill.

It seems like the only way to altogether avoid plastic grocery bags is to remember to take your reusable bags to every store when you go shopping, but those bags are easy to forget. You can opt for paper bags, but that leads to more deforestation.

Plastic bags aren’t going anywhere, and they are likely to end up in landfills or cluttering up roadsides. Instead of tossing yours in the trash, do what you can to recycle and reuse them.

Find Out If Your Grocer Will Take Them

When it comes to disposing of plastic shopping bags, it doesn’t seem like many environmentally conscious options are available when you shouldn’t toss them in the trash and can’t recycle them. There are options, though, and one of the easiest ones is to find out if you have a local grocery store, or other shopping outlets, with a bin for plastic bags.

If you don’t want to call around or drive to a bunch of stores in your area looking for a place that takes bags, you can do a quick search online. Some stores known for taking bags for recycling include Meijer, Target, Kohl’s, and Lowe’s.

You don’t even need to make a special trip to the store to drop off the bags. Roll them up and save all of them inside one bag; then take them with you when you head out to shop again.

Donate Them to a Thrift Store

If you have a locally owned thrift store in your area, contact them to find out if they can reuse your plastic bag collection. It saves them money getting bags donated, instead of needing to buy them.

You can also use your plastic bags for your donatable items. Fill a couple of bags and save your boxes for future shipping needs. Every single one of us has some stuff lying around that we no longer need or use that could find new life with a different owner.

Reuse Them

Aside from donating your goods in those plastic bags, you can reuse them in other ways. Instead of buying more plastic to use in your small trash cans, recycle your plastic shopping bags as trash bags. Those bags will still end up in a landfill, unfortunately, but at least the bag will no longer be one-use trash fodder.

Another way to get one more use out of your plastic shopping bags is to use them when you take your dog for a walk. Instead of buying more throw-away plastic, you can use your plastic shopping bags to pick up poop—look at that, recycling and keeping the neighborhood clean in one swoop.

Plastic bags also make excellent makeshift greenhouses for your indoor plants. Use them to boost the growth of herbs and vegetables, or as a way to keep your plants watered while you’re away for a few days.

Crochet or Craft with Them

If you have a crafty side, put your creative skills to work, and make things with your single-use plastic bags. You’ll find a plethora of ideas across the internet.

If you have them, put your crochet skills to use and use plastic bags to make rugs, baskets, and even reusable bags. If you’re looking for more information about it, people commonly refer to the “yarn” made from recycled bags as “plarn.” The video above shows one way people make it. Make them for yourself, friends, or start your own business of upcycled plastic bag crafts.

For those without crocheting skills, you can do other crafty things with your plastic bags. Iron some together (which fuses them) to make a flexible fabric that you can use for many crafts. Use your plastic bag fabric to make reusable shopping bags and totes, eyeglass holders, and even clothing items. (It might not be the most comfortable fabric for a shirt, but you could make a one-of-a-kind jacket.)

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »

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