12 Ways to Up-cycle Plastic Bags


I thought San Francisco banned plastic bags. Where did you get this contraband, Adam? --ChayaThe scourge of landfills and the enemy of environmentalists, plastic bags have been much maligned in recent years. Starting in 2007, cities around the country have voted to ban or curb the use of these non-compostable carriers in favor of paper or plant-based alternatives. For instance, the San Jose, CA plumbing and sewer system was plagued with an overabundance of trash in its storm sewers, and issued a plastic bag ban in January of 2011.

But while their eco-impact might be pretty harsh, you can at least make a plastic bag serve a second purpose before it ends up in a landfill. There are, of course, the obvious uses: lining a trash bin, cleaning up after a dog or reusing them as bags at the grocery store. But here are some other great, innovative ways to re-use plastic bags.

Soccer Ball: As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. In Africa, kids looking to kick a ball around will often reach for plastic bags. Wrapped and packed tightly, these bags are perfect for the pitch in a pinch.

Throw Rug: If you have weaving skills, you can use tightly rolled plastic bags to fashion a rug. Using brightly colored bags, these rugs are as attractive as anything made of more traditional textiles.

Plarn: “Plarn,” or plastic bag yarn is the art of making a weaveable material from old plastic bags and serves as the basis for many other plastic bag crafts.

Sandals: Fashion yourself some fashionable footwear with a bunch of old plastic bags. These plastic bag sandals look pretty comfortable, though I wonder how well they breathe on a hot summer’s day.

Plastic Bag Tote Bag: Sure, you can take your plastic bag back to the grocery store and use it for a second haul of groceries. But what about making a bag from plastic bags? This tote bag is so meta it’s making my head spin.

Making Bread: Rather than reaching for plastic wrap, use a plastic bag to cover rising dough when making bread or pizza. Slip your bread bowl inside the bag and tie it shut to keep the dough nice and moist.

Stand-in for Plastic Wrap: Whenever a recipe calls for something to be battered and flattened, you can use a bag instead. So next time you need to hammer away at a carpaccio or schnitzel, dispense with the plastic wrap and grab a bag.

Pastry Bag: If you need to frost a cake or make macarons, a plastic bag is a good substitute for a pastry bag. Simply fill the bag and snip off a corner.

Packing Material: Keep fragile objects safe in the mail by stuffing shipping boxes with plastic bags.

Painting: Get an attractive textured effect on your walls by applying a dark coat of paint with a paint roller and then a second, lighter coat with a scrunched-up plastic bag. 

Plastic Flowers: Make a flower from a plastic bag for a rose that’s always in bloom. 

Make Art, Not Trash: Take some inspiration from artist Virginia Fleck and make some incredible, beautiful works of art from old plastic bags.

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