18 Clever Ways to Reuse Your Plastic Shopping Bags

By Paul Michael on 15 June 2016 1 comment

Plastic shopping bags, once a staple at every store you could think of, are under attack. In August 2014, California imposed a statewide ban on plastic bags. The same bags are also banned in Hawaii, and the Outer Banks region of North Carolina. And on May 5th, New York City Council approved a $0.05 fee on plastic grocery bags. Make no mistake, plastic bags are either going to disappear from your state, or start costing you. So, when you do get a bunch, what are you going to do with them? They can be hazardous to marine life, and the environment, so you don't want to throw them in the trash. Instead, you can get crafty. Here are 18 ways you can reuse those plastic shopping bags.

1. Use Them as Packing Material

Forget packing peanuts and bubble wrap. That stuff is expensive, and as you usually never see it again, you're throwing your money away. Instead, pack your fragile items in a thick and cushioned cocoon of old plastic bags. If you have bags that are free from holes, you can even blow air into them and create an air pillow. But even just using them scrunched up, you can keep items safe and sound without having to buy pricey packing supplies.

2. Cover Paint Trays

When you're painting a room in your home, you will find out quickly that paint trays are a pain to wash out. You can buy paint tray liners, but at over $1 a pop, that's a lot of money to throw away. Instead, grab a plastic shopping bag and put the paint tray inside it. Flatten it down, pour the paint as usual, and you have a paint tray liner that cost almost nothing. When you're done, let it dry, remove it, and turn it inside out. Then, use it again. You can also use plastic bags to wrap your paintbrushes in. Do this for the duration of the job, instead of washing each time.

3. Scoop the Poop

When you walk the dog, take plastic grocery bags with you. You can't count on the local park having a well-stocked supply of poop bags, and you don't want to be that dog owner that just walks away from the mess. The bags are perfect for scooping, tying, and disposing. A word of caution though; make sure the bags don't have those safety holes in the bottom. Scoop with one of those and you'll be scrubbing your hands with bleach for a while. Ugh.

4. Line Bathroom Trashcans

Plastic grocery bags are the perfect size for the little trash cans you have in the bathroom or office. Sometimes you'll need to stretch out the top a little to make it fit snug, but it works. You should also keep a few extra bags at the bottom of the can, so you can quickly take out the old one and replace it with a fresh one. Stock up once a month.

5. Dispose of Cat Litter

Keep a big supply of plastic bags next to the cat litter boxes. When it comes time to scoop and sift, the plastic grocery bags are perfect for holding the clumps. Then, tie a couple of knots and throw away as usual. If you have an old diaper genie, you can store them in there until it gets full, saving you a few trips to the garbage can. If your plastic bag is big enough, you can also use it as a liner to the cat tray.

6. Separate Wet Clothes From Dry

If you go swimming, take plastic bags with you in your gym bag. When you're done, put the wet clothes in the bag and tie it up, then pop it in the gym bag and you'll avoid getting your other clothes wet. You can use the same trick if you're traveling. Put your used clothes and underwear in plastic bags if you don't have access to laundry, and wash when you get home.

7. Make an Emergency Rain Hat

You. Will. Look. Ridiculous. But, do you care about looking silly, or keeping your head dry? You can easily turn a plastic bag into a makeshift rain hat and it will protect your hair and head from a downpour. Who knows, maybe it will become the next big fashion trend. You can also use the same hack as a shower cap.

8. Create Bags, Rope, and More!

If you're very crafty, patient, and have a lot of plastic bags at home, you can make some incredible things from them. For instance, here is a crocheted bag made entirely from old plastic shopping bags. It will last hundreds of trips to the store, and looks cool. You can also make a very sturdy rope, friendship bracelets, sandals, and whatever else you can imagine.

9. Use as Furniture Stuffing

Plastic bags are soft, and when you put a bunch of them together, you can fill out pillows and cushions without spending a dime on polyester padding. One quick idea… get an old pillowcase or cushion cover, stuff it with old plastic bags, and sew it shut. You now have a cheap pet pillow for a dog or cat that you won't mind throwing away once it's well used.

10. Store Food in the Fridge

Before reaching for the cling wrap or foil, see if a plastic grocery bag will do the job first. They are a handy size for storing watermelons that have been cut in half, and also cover whole plates of food. Just make sure the bag you're using is clean and dry, and has not been used to hold anything hazardous to anyone's health.

11. Sick Bag!

How many times have you been driving along when a young kid says, "I'm gonna be sick!" Well, you have a few options. After you panic, you can try and find a place to pull over. That isn't always possible though. The kid could roll down the window and try throwing up but really, that's a mess just waiting to happen — and other drivers will not be happy. Instead, just keep a few grocery bags (without safety holes) in the glove compartment. They make excellent sick bags that can be tied and thrown away at the next rest stop.

12. Protect Plants From Frost

If you live in a place where the climate cannot make up its mind (psst… looking at you, Colorado) then you may have plants out ready for summer that could be at risk of a frost attack. You can protect them by wrapping a plastic grocery bag around them overnight, and removing it in the morning.

13. Go Fly a Kite

The lightweight plastic is perfect for catching and holding the wind, and can easily be made into a simple kite to keep the kids entertained at the park. All you need is a plastic grocery bag (or more, depending on how big you want to go), some plastic or wooden sticks, tape, and kite string. Make a cross shape with the sticks, tape it together, wrap the bag(s) around it, secure with more tape, and finally, securely attach the kite string. You can also use a few bags for a tail. Get creative. It's a fun project with a fun outcome.

14. Emergency Gloves

Keep plastic grocery bags handy in the car and the garage. When you have to do something a little messy, especially where oil is concerned, you can pop a bag on each hand before you get to work. They're thin enough to allow you to feel what's going on, but durable enough to keep the oil and grease off your hands. This can also work for those nasty jobs like toilet cleaning, drain cleaning, and anything else that leaves your hands messy.

15. Drop Cloths

You can buy plastic drop cloths from hardware stores, but sometimes, you really don't need one that's 12-ft square. If you're doing some light touch-up work, maybe on a door, baseboard, or end table, cut open a grocery bag and place that down. Secure it with tape if need be.

16. Keep Feet Dry

When you're planning to head out into wintry weather, pop a plastic bag on each foot before you put your foot inside your boot or shoe. No matter what you encounter, your feet will be keep clean and bone dry while you get to work. The bags also add an extra layer of warmth.

17. Boil Water

Seriously. If you're out in the wilderness, camping, or hiking, and need access to clean drinking water, a plastic grocery bag can be a lifesaver. This YouTube video shows you just how to make fresh water with a plastic shopping bag.

18. Make a Sling or Tourniquet

Another great survival tip; keep a few plastic bags handy when you go out into the wild, or off on another adventure. If the worst should happen, and you do get a wound, break, or other injury, a plastic bag can be used to tie off the circulation and/or make a handy sling.

What are some other clever uses for plastic shopping bags? Share with us!

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Guest's picture
Phyllis Dupret

Thank you this is really worth reading...good suggestions to read and share...........

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Craig

Anybody with any gardening knowledge will tell you to never use plastic to protect plants from a frost!!!