Switching over to reusable bags is a necessary change that we should all be making both a habit and a rule. Unfortunately, at times many people still find themselves with some extra plastic bags on their hands when they forget their reusables or from an unplanned shopping trip. Instead of guiltily throwing them out (Yes! I've seen people do that!), there are so many different ways to reuse them. *Ideally, the best methods of reuse are ways that will keep these bags out of the landfill the longest.*
Shortest life-cycle: These ideas are certainly useful, but don't reduce the life-cycle of the bag as much as other reuse options.
- Have a pet? Walk your dog and use the bag as a pooper scooper. (Avoid this altogether using a Doggie Dooley) Or use it to line litter bins.
- Use as a barrier between you and your trash: for those with infrequent trash pickups, use as an extra layer for strong smelling kitchen waste. Or replace trash bags: use for the bathroom, the car, or even to replace kitchen trash bags.
- Heading out with your toddler? Consider these as double layer for used baby diapers instead of using new Ziplocks.
- Like a clean house? Use as over dirty shoes to avoid tracking mud, or to put over shoes while doing gardening.
- Ask your stores if they will take the bags back. Some retailers, such as Target and Wal-mart have set up initiative programs, but you can encourage your local retailer to do the same (or cut out bags completely). In California, it's now the law for large stores to take back plastic bags.
- Use as packing material for moving, and shipping fragile items. If its not going to you, be sure to ask the recipient to recycle them as well!
- Donate the bags: many organizations will collect plastic bags for their organization, including local animal shelters or clinics, mental health facilities, and particularly your child's school: my mother, a preschool teacher notes that she is always in need of bags to send home work in, or particularly soiled clothing that needs to be washed.
For those of you who are interested in something a little bit more long lasting, consider learning how to crochet plastic bags! There are several websites dedicated to this, check some of these out: my recycled bags, or this plastic bag rug how to. Or for those of us without so much time on our hands, some artists will take your plastic bags to turn them into a work of art! Check out these great bags from Cara Taylor. She sells these online in her Etsy shop, and also will take donations of plastic bags in return for a mini crocheted coin purse. Good deal!
A closing note: These bags should be re-used as many times as possible to avoid entering the waste stream, but ultimately avoiding plastics all together is crucial to reduce our footprint on this earth. Until it becomes second nature, keeping a large stash of reusable bags is important- you can put them in many different places to avoid ending up without one. I keep them in my room, my kitchen, the trunk of my car, and the backseat, and check myself before entering any store without one. Happy Shopping!
Photo Credits: Gwensmom@Flikr, Bad Bad Magpie@flikr