Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My Plastic Bag Collection: Recycling 101

I wish American Idol had a recyling competition. Contestants would have to sing, while coming up with lots of new ways to reuse plastic bags. Voters would cast ballots for the best song and the most creative use of a plastic bag.

Actually, there are various ways to recycle and reuse plastic shopping bags. In fact, there are also creative and money saving uses for many household materials and items.

“More than 80 percent of consumers reuse plastic bags as liners for household wastebaskets, shoe totes and laundry or garment bags. They also use them to carry home wet swimsuits, towels or gym clothes, to hold recyclables or yard wastes for collection, or for a variety of other purposes," according to a statement from The Society of the Plastics Industry.

From Knee Pads to Pooper Scoopers

Likewise, the September issue of Real Simple magazine has an excellent article featuring 10 different uses for plastic grocery bags.

Garden Knee pads. Wrapped around your knees, plastic bags make great protective clothing pads for gardeners.

Paint brush covers. Secured with rubber banks, plastic bags will keep paint brushes and rollers moist when you take a break from painting chores.

Instant rain gear or umbrellas covers. Folded into a small square, a plastic bag can be toted around to provide instant cover for unexpected rain. Or bags can be used to stash wet umbrellas, thereby protecting briefcases, cars and other surfaces from dripping umbrellas.

Kitchen helpers. Peel your carrots, potatoes and other food over a plastic bag. When the chore is complete, either simply wrap and toss the scraps into the garbage or rinse and reuse the bag for your next peeling project.

Cookbook cover. Wet ingredients and messy chefs are hazardous for cookbooks. Fashion a book cover with plastic bags.

Small plastic bags also serve as wrapping paper (use colorful shades or decorate with stickers), shoe covers or even filler in planters. Stuffed into the bottom of a pot, a plastic bag will help you fill space (and save on potting soil) when the container is too deep for the plant. Don’t stuff the drainage holes. Other ways to recycle plastic bags are listed at

You can also shop with your own bags by purchasing cloth or nylon re-usable grocery bags. Store bags can also be stored from trip to trip and then re-used. Various stores sell gadgets for storing recycled bags. Real Simple recommends two: 1) A $6 Plastic Bag Recycler from or a $15 Upright Bag (stainless steel) Holder from

Empty Tissue Boxes

In my house, however, we store plastic bags in empty tissue boxes. As needed, individual bags are extracted from the boxes. With this storage method, we recycle two cast-off items: plastic bags and empty tissue boxes

We have a new dog and the plastic bags are great as pooper-scoopers.
Susan Deets, one of my Miami Herald readers, provided one of my favorite tips for creative uses for plastic bags.

“The Herald newspaper delivery bags make great shoe bags for traveling. It keeps the suitcase clean and protects the shoes as well. I use one bag per shoe,” she wrote.

Broken Arm Covers

Likewise, reader Jeane Shelden also rehabilitates plastic bags: “When I had a cast on my hand/arm I put my arm into one of the newspaper bags, slipped a rubberband around my arm and kept it dry during a shower. Worked perfectly,” Shelden wrote.

“I also use one in my kitchen sink every day for the 'wet garbage' then knot the top of it and drop it into the garbage bin. We can usually find a use for almost anything that is intended to be discarded, it just takes a little bit of thought and ingenuity.”

Formal recycling programs are available from . On that website, use your zip code to find nearby recycling centers. In my region, for example, various Publix Supermarkets and Albertsons were listed as recycling centers.

1 comment:

mapgirl said...

The tissue box storage idea is GREAT! I'll have to give that a try.