GREEN IS GOOD
by Meg White
My single-use plastic bag ban is going pretty well this week. So far the only plastic bags I’ve racked up on the list is a trash bag and a couple produce bags. None of those nasty single-use plastic shopping bags made it into my hands.
But as we saw with my struggles to phase these bags out of my life last week, slip-ups happen when we’re not paying attention. For me, those slip-ups have slowly morphed into a mountain of single-use plastic bags that is taking over my kitchen’s storage space. No doubt you also have a cupboard or closet full of these bags, and you’re wondering what to do with them all.
While my fair city of Chicago has a dismal record when it comes to recycling, there are a lot of non-governmental reuse options available to those who seek them out
I’m partial to my neighborhood co-op, which does not buy plastic bags, but has a reuse supply collected by patrons such as myself from other stores. Not only is this a great place to put supposedly single-use bags back into the system for another go-around, but the co-op’s distribution of pre-used bags gets customers thinking, so that next time they’ll hopefully bring their own reusable bag.
While the recycling efforts of my favorite co-op might not be as useful to you as I find it, if you look around, you’re likely to find a local option in your neighborhood. There are even some big box stores developing bag recycling programs, such as Target.
Speaking of cooperation, consider offloading some of your bags onto someone who may have more of a consistent use for them. For example, I never throw away bags at here at BuzzFlash HQ, since our office dog Zoe has her own particular use for them around town.
Tailor your own plastic reuse plan to your specific lifestyle for maximum effect. For example, gardeners have learned that the protective qualities of plastic can be capitalized upon by reusing plastic bags as makeshift galoshes or knee pads. As I prepare to move all my worldly possessions into a new apartment, I’ve found a wadded-up plastic bag to be useful as packaging material.
But there are only so many times you can reuse a single-use bag. What does a person do when bags are as holey and grungy as early 1990s fashion?
Thankfully, there are plenty of options for the crafty among us.
Not only does re-purposing plastic keep those bags out of the landfill, but it saves you money. On that note, allow me to give a shout out to my recessionistas out there with this tip: You can wear re-purposed plastic without looking like a bag lady. In fact, even couture fashion is getting into the plastic act.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce all the knitters, weavers and crocheters out there to the wonder known as “plarn.” You guessed it: it’s yarn made out of plastic bags. Here’s one tutorial from craft blogger Helle Jorgensen on how to turn your bags into plarn. As a most apropos tribute to the living things that are perhaps the most at risk of our overuse of plastic, she uses her plarn to create this amazing sea creature art.
One common use for plarn is to make a sturdier, reusable plastic bag, but the possibilities are limited only by your creativity. For example, check out these adorable sandals (with instructions) made out of plastic bags. Or how about a plarn baseball cap?
If you’re more of a weaver than a crocheter, turning plastic bags into a durable rug is a piece of cake. Here’s a simple how-to. For the sewers out there, I recommend trying out this raincoat tutorial.
One of the simplest ways to re-purpose plastic bags without a sewing machine, loom or crochet needles is known as fusing. Using an iron to melt plastic bags together is a relatively simple way to recreate plastic items. Fused plastic can be used in numerous ways, such as in this video, where a laptop case is made by fusing plastic bags together. Fused bags are also used to make jewelry and headbands.
Not that you need special tools to reuse plastic bags. This lamp can be made without a stitch or fuse at all.
If making it yourself is too much of a chore you can always buy products from a plastic reuser. While it’s not as good as reusing one’s own plastic bags, you can support artists who re-purpose plastic by buying their wears or donating your plastic to them. For example, if you’re able to save up 50 or more non-white plastic bags and ship them to artist Cara Taylor, she’ll send you a free coin purse made out of plastic bags (pictured at top).
Another option for the uncrafty is getting the kids in on the act. Here’s a huge list of projects children can do with plastic bags, from parachutes to wreaths to “baggie butterflies.” This way you’re instilling the value of reuse early on in their lives.
No matter what your skill level or available free time, you can always do the boring thing and bring your excess plastic to the recycling center. Either way, it’s nearly impossible to come up with a decent excuse to send one’s plastic bag to the landfill these days.
GREEN IS GOOD
This is just a sampling of ways to reuse and re-purpose single-use plastic bags. Share your ideas by leaving a comment below.