Each year, Americans use 100 billion plastic shopping bags. Sometimes it seems like there are at least that many bags taking up space in a closet or kitchen cabinet. If you have a mountain of plastic bags and you’re looking for practical ways to recycle them, here are 10 ways you can use them to make life easier, save money, and cut down on waste.
1. Keep Birds Out of the Garden
If wild birds are eating fruits and vegetables before you can harvest them, use shopping bags to scare them away. Cut the bags into long strips and tie the strips to plants or stakes. You can also run string between stakes so that you can tie strips along the string. As the plastic flutters in the breeze, it will startle the birds out of your garden. (Be sure to tie them on really well so they don’t fly away.)
2. Fill Plant Pots
If you’re a container gardener, then you know that potting soil gets expensive – especially if you’re filling large containers. Cut costs by filling the bottoms of deep pots with crumpled up shopping bags. Just make sure to place a few small stones around drainage areas so that the plastic doesn’t clog the holes.
3. Clean Knees
Are you tired of muddy, grass-stained jeans? When you’re gardening, tie shopping bags around your knees, and you’ll never have to worry about grass stains or ground-in dirt again.
4. Pack It Up!
If you’ve divided the plants in your garden, but you’re out of giveaway pots, use plastic bags instead. Bags work almost as well as pots for keeping roots moist until your friends have time to plant their new starts.
5. Who Needs Peanuts?
If you need to ship a package, don’t bother buying packing peanuts or bubble wrap. Fill the box with bags to cushion the item you’re sending.
6. Help Shoes and Handbags Keep Their Shape
If you want your shoes, boots and handbags to stay in shape, but you’re out of tissue paper or other fillers, use shopping bags instead. As a bonus, in humid climates, they won’t absorb ambient moisture, which reduces the chances of mold and mildew growth!
7. Keep Your Clothes Dust Free
We all have a few outfits in our closets that are reserved for special occasions. Garment bags will keep them clean, but they’re costly and bulky. Save both money and space by using the larger shopping bags as a garment bag to protect suits, jackets and big items. Simply cut a small hole in the bottom of the bag and slip it over the clothes hanger to keep your favorite outfits clean. Small plastic bags work well for blouses and children’s clothes.
8. Clean Ceiling Fans
Have you ever cleaned a ceiling fan, only to have the dust and dirt rain down on your floors and furnishings? Slip a plastic bag over the blades of the fan as you clean to catch the mess.
9. Use them for Painting Projects
Whether you’re painting your living room, the garage or anywhere else, plastic bags are an invaluable tool:
- Put them under paint cans to catch drips and spills.
- Double-bag your roller pan. Instead of washing it out, you can peel the plastic bags away from the pan and throw them away.
- If you need to take a break, tightly wrap your brushes and rollers in two or three plastic bags so that they don’t dry out.
When you’re done painting, you can also use plastic to keep your paint fresh. Place a bag over the top of the paint can before replacing the lid. This will create a tighter seal, and it will keep dried paint from falling into the can the next time you open it.
10. Cheap Insulation
If you need to seal gaps around vent pipes, ducts, plumbing or any other fixture that runs through a wall, use bags to fill the void inside the wall. After that, seal the gap from both sides with spray foam or caulk. The sealant will stick to both the bags and the pipe, ensuring that you have a tight, long-lasting seal. They also work to fill the gaps from your window air conditioning unit.
Do you have clever ways that you reuse plastic shopping bags? Share your ideas with us in the comments below!