16 Smart Ways to Repurpose & Reuse Plastic Bags

Tired of just tossing your plastic bags into bigger plastic bags? Find the joy in reusing them with these sustainable ideas.

Published August 8, 2023
Produce in plastic bags on a wooden table

The late 70s had their war on disco, and in the 2020s, we've got our war on plastics. As the effects of global climate change are becoming more apparent in our everyday lives, you might feel the need to do something. And while environmental justice happens on an impossibly large scale, there are small-scale efforts you can participate in. Just finding new ways to reuse your plastic bags can have a positive impact.

16 Ingenious Ideas for Reusing Your Plastic Bags

Do you have a plastic bag filled with bags? Reuse them with these sustainable ideas.

A stack of colorful plastic bags

Use Them to Sweep Up Broken Glass

On the rare occasions you let a glass take a nosedive onto your kitchen floor, go straight to your cupboard full of plastic bags. Put your broom inside the bag and loosely knot the handles together around the shaft. Now, you can sweep up all that glass without getting any shards stuck in your broom.

Crochet Sleeping Mats for the People Who Are Unhoused

Did you know you can crochet plastic bags into sleeping mats for people who are unhoused? In doing so, you're practicing sustainability in a way that can positively affect your community. Check with your local non-profits to see where you can make such donations, and then follow Fine Craft Guild's easy instructions to crochet the mats.

Make Plastic Bags Your Default Pool or Beach Bag

When you go to the pool or the beach, things are going to get wet and/or sandy. Instead of finding little sand particles in your favorite tote bags weeks later, bring along a few plastic bags to toss your wet bathing suits and towels into.

Craft Your Own Homemade Ikea Tote

Ikea's known for many things: their food court, crazy product names, and those iconic blue plastic bags. Why hoard Ikea bags when you can turn regular plastic bags into a big tote, instead? SuzelleDIY's TikTok easily illustrates how to complete this fast process, which involves fusing multiple bags together with a clothing iron.

@suzelle_diy Earth Day Tote Bag DIY! #earthday #savetheplanet #diy #fyp #tiktoksa original sound - SuzelleDIY

Turn Large Plastic Bags Into Garment Bags

Large plastic bags will work as a garment bag in a pinch. Let's say you're driving out of town with a freshly ironed outfit and just want to keep it from getting dusty or wrinkled. Just tear a hole in the top of a large plastic bag and feed it over the shoulders and through the hanger hook.

Keep Your Change Handy With a Plastic Bag Coin Purse

Rather than tossing your loose change into the empty cup holder in your car or finding it squeezed in the cracks of your washing machine drum, turn your grocery store bags into an upcycled coin purse. We Can Make Anything's quick tutorial only requires five tools and a little patience.

Weave Plastic Bag Strips Into Placemats

If you've got an outdoor table, then plastic placemats are perfect for your summer setup. Simply twist each bag and braid a few into strips. When you've got enough braids, you can take extra strips, and weave them in and out of the two different braids to connect them all together.

If You've Got Dogs, Stop Buying Poop Bags

Using plastic bags to pick up your dog's poop feels like a no brainer, but it doesn't cross everyone's mind. Instead of buying boxes and boxes of more plastic bags, use the ones you already have.

Opt for Recycled Party Decor

Using the fuse method, strip plastic bags into colorful confetti that (when heated) molds into sheets you can cut out and string up for party pennant garland. Watch Recycledin's TikTok for inspiration to see just how unlimited you are in what decorations you can make.

@recycledin 100% Recycled and upcycled plastic grocery bags Why buy single-use flags if you can have these! #plasticrecycling #recycling #upcycle #genbrug #nachhaltigkeit #reciclado #reciclagem #kunststofafval #reciclatge #plaståtervinning #riciclo #riciclo #art #craft How`s Your Day - aAp Vision

Decorate for the Holidays With a Plastic Wreath

Plastic bags come in a variety of colors, which makes them perfect for DIY crafts. When the winter holidays roll around, spend less on a front door wreath by making one out of a wire hanger and plastic bag strips. Tackling it for the first time? Try out The Happier Homemaker's online tutorial.

Use Them to Protect Fragile Shipments

Packing peanuts and plastic bubble wrap may look way cooler than a handful of plastic bags twisted around each other, but they're an extra expense you don't need to waste money on. Instead, take your old plastic bags and pad out any of the open space.

Keep Your Mirrors From Getting Iced in Winter

Everyone knows the sheet hack for keeping your windshield squeaky clean during icy winter storms, but not everybody remembers to do something about their side mirrors. Keep those insulated by wrapping plastic bags around them and tying them off the night before a freeze or snow.

Use Them to Make a Small Compost Pile

If you only make enough waste to have a small compost pile, you can keep one in an easily accessible plastic bag. And the best part of keeping your compost in a small bag with handles is you can take it right out to the garden with ease.

Create an Abstract Painting Using Plastic Bags

Need to give your kids something to do for a few hours or want to take a hands-on brain break from work? Pull out some acrylic paint, paper, and plastic bags. Using Coty Schwabe's technique, you can bring your own abstract artwork to life.

Cover Half-Used Paint Cans With Them

There's nothing that'll give you carpal tunnel quicker than battling with a dried-up paint can lid and a flathead screwdriver. Save your wrists and your paint by layering a plastic bag over the paint can and then closing the lid on top. This'll keep the drying paint from suctioning to the lid.

Stuff Collectible Sneakers With Plastic Bags

If you're a sneakerhead, then your biggest fear is getting that dreaded crease. Keep your shoes in pristine condition while in storage by packing them full of plastic bags. This'll keep them nice and rounded, with nary a crease in sight.

Fun Ways to Reduce How Many Plastic Bags You Use

Some businesses have really taken initiative in the fight against plastic bags, but the majority of them still dole out those flimsy bags like they're raffle tickets. On top of reusing your plastic bags in interesting new ways, you can also reduce how many plastic bags you use entirely.

A reusable produce bag
  • Crochet your own produce bags. If you've got a hankering for some crafting, try your hand at making a reusable produce bag. Check out Handy Finch's easy-to-follow pattern.
  • Buy reusable bags. Just make sure to leave your reusable grocery bags in the car, because you say that you'll remember to bring them, but you hardly ever will.
  • Ask for paper bags at local stores. Not every store offers paper bags (which are recyclable and biodegradable), but make sure you ask at checkout if they carry any.
  • Order meal kit services. Pre-prepared meal kits come packaged in the mail already portioned out for you to cook. If you're not buying from the grocery store as much, you've got fewer plastic bags to get rid of.

Save the Planet One Plastic Bag at a Time

You might only be one person, but it only takes one person to make a difference. Admittedly, many sustainability options like solar panels or subsistence farming aren't easily accessible, but reducing plastic use and reusing your plastic bag hoard is one quick way you can get involved.

16 Smart Ways to Repurpose & Reuse Plastic Bags