Sunday, November 30, 2008

Recycling - getting crafty with plastic bags

Cheerfully cribbed from Green Living Tips:

According to some estimates, between 500 billion and a trillion plastic grocery bags are used globally each year. The Worldwatch Institute states it takes 430,000 gallons of oil to produce 100 million plastic bags - so that comes to a staggering 4,300,000 gallons or 16,277,270 liters of oil to make a trillion bags.

It's been great to see a concerted effort by many individuals and some towns to ban plastic bags but even if you've started to kick the plastic habit, chances are you may still have a few (dozen/hundred) floating around the place. Many of us are getting into reusable bag habit, but I for one (and I doubt I am alone) often forget to take them with me every time I we go shopping. Shame on me...on us.

If you're into crafts, you can put these bags to good use so they don't wind up in landfill. Even if your house is totally a bag free zone and you have the time to spare, get your friends to give you theirs - you'll even be able to create heavy duty reusable shopping bags they can take to the store so they won't have an excuse for gathering more in the future :).

First, you'll need to know how to create plastic yarn (Plarn) - there's some instructions here. Or Plarn Deconstructed. Also sometimes referred to as "up cycled yarn."

Video: how to make Plarn. If you'd like to learn how to fuse/weld plastic bags, there's a great guide here.

Now that the base materials are sorted out, grab your knitting needles, sewing machine and crochet hooks and check out some of these amazing creations.

If you're looking for plastic bag craft ideas suitable for children - here's a nice selection

Some other quick tips for using plastic bags:
  • Door snake: Sew a tube of cloth, cram it full of plastic bags, then sew up the ends. Use it to prevent drafts from gaps under doors.
  • Packing: Use plastic bags as cushioning material when packing instead of packing peanuts.
  • Stuffing: Good for restuffing footstools and cushions

Plastic bag litter isn't just unsightly, in a marine environment plastic bags are particularly destructive, killing at least 100000 birds, whales, seals and turtles every year according to PlanetArk. Many sea animals mistake the bags for jellyfish, part of their diet. Professional fishermen pull many bags from the stomachs of sharks and tuna.

Even if the production of plastic bags was banned tomorrow, the legacy of the trillions already created would haunt us for generations; so it's great to see enterprising people putting them to good use!

Spotted or created something useful/groovy created with plastic bags and would like to share the instructions or a link with other Green Living Tips readers? Please add it below in comments.


  1. Since making papier mache sculpture, many people have been giving me there plastic bags, which become stuffing for my creations. I am happy to "upcycle" them in this way!
    Karen Sloan ~ Wall Flower Studio
    Ontario, Canada

  2. oops, spelling mistake! I meant to say "their" bags, not there bags. I should know better!

  3. Karen - thanks for the good idea. Not so "creative" but I use them for stuffing drafty cracks around the door sills and other places.


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