DIY: Repurpose Plastic Bags

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The new issue of Rolling Stone arrived at the casa today and it features a three page story on the plastic bag industry with some alarming statistics like “the world consumes 1 million plastic shopping bags every minute.” That’s a lot of bags – especially when you consider how many of them are just gonna wind up floating around in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Which is… pretty disgusting.

I try to avoid taking plastic bags as often as possible – I can’t handle the guilt – but I still somehow have a slew of them overflowing in a corner of my kitchen. Plastic bags suck, and I know it. They’re not even any fun to wrap a beer in. So, in order to solve the plastic problem I turn to two tenets of recycling – and DIY – reuse and repurpose.

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Although they’re not (for the most part) recyclable, plastic bags can be repurposed and reused easily – generally this involves fusing the plastic first. Fusing is pretty straightforward – grab an iron (which you will NOT be using on your clothes, ever), baking parchment paper and a heat-resistant surface like a wooden cutting board. The bags you can use are HDPE (recycle code 2) and LDPE (recycling code 4) which will fuse both to themselves as well as to each other. You can even use potato chip bags inside out to achieve a silver metallic color. Just fuse together a layer at a time – the parchment paper can be reused multiple times – you’ll probably need about eight layers for most projects. Just that simple know-how can get you bags, wallets, pouches, laptop caseshoodies… You’ll just need to sew a zipper closure, or handles, to complete basic shapes.

Image courtesy Design Sponge

Plastic bags can also be crocheted and woven into placemats and rugs which is fairly time intensive as you first need to slice the bag into strips to creat plarn (plastic yard, natch) then you’ve got a whole lot of “sc in next 2sc, 2sc in next sc, repeat” type stuff ahead of you. If you’re comfortable with crochet, there’s a water bottle holder tutorial as well.

Plastic bags can also be converted into pillow stuffing or gift wrap. Got a better idea? Share it with the rest of us then smartpants!

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Amber Bouman - Crafty & Cashless

Amber Bouman - Crafty & Cashless

A freelance writer, blogger and poet based in San Francisco, Amber has written for PC World, InfoWorld, and the 16th & Mission Review. She has performed at City Hall, Litquake, the Brainwash, 16th & Mission, BlueSix, and SFSU among other places. Amber is also consummate fan of swearing, organizational freak, yoga practitioner, music geek, caffeine addict, and tattoo enthusiast who enjoys platform shoes, making out, thumb wrestling and fighting the good fight. She owns a bicycle named Gretel, a motor scooter named Elroy and a cat named Simon. She can be found in various virtual locations all over your interwebs.

1 Comment

  1. Amber Bouman - Crafty & Cashless
    Amber B
    August 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    UPDATE: so, it was brought to my attention by Claudia at Hilex (thanks Claudia!) that plastic bags ARE, in fact, recyclable. Although you can’t put them in your standard blue recycling bin, many grocery stores around the Bay Area will accept clean and dry plastic bags. You can find out more info here:
    Cheers, and thanks! Amber