How many plastic bags do you have stashed around your house? There are over 500 billion bags used each year, so the odds of you having none around your house are pretty slim. The plastic bag situation has grown so serious that several states have laws in place concerning plastic bags. Under New York State Environmental Conservation Law, “The operator of a store shall establish an at-store recycling program pursuant to the provisions of this title that provides an opportunity for a customer of the store to return to the store clean plastic carryout bags. A retail establishment that does not meet the definition of a store and that provides plastic carryout bags to customers at the point of sale may also adopt an at-store recycling program.” Translation? Any store that gives you your merchandise (food, clothes, toys, etc) in plastic bags HAS to offer some form of a bag-recycling program. It’s the law! Most larger chains like Price Chopper or Walmart have a plastic bag drop-off right inside the front door. At smaller stores you may have to ask customer service where you can leave your bags.
In addition to taking your bags to drop-off points there are several other ways to reuse your plastic bags at home, and you can save yourself a couple dollars in the process.
- Clean up after your pets. Instead of purchasing doggy-bags when you take your canine for a walk, just reuse a plastic shopping bag. Also, if you have to clean a kitty litter box plastic bags work well to dispose of dirty litter.
- Plastic bag it. In today’s economy a lot more people are “Paper Baggin It,” taking their lunch to work with them to save a few dollars instead of purchasing their lunch that day. But, how many people buy a package of small paper bags to take their lunch in? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Why not just use your plastic shopping bags? Bonus, if anything in your lunch leaks, it can’t leak through the bag.
- Garbage Bags. Do you purchase tiny garbage bags to fit in the small garbage cans throughout your house? Well, don’t. The average grocery bag fits in those garbage cans perfectly.
- Storage. How much did you spend on those fancy plastic storage bags in your closet full of winter sweaters? Probably double if you fell for the late night infomercial that includes a tiny vacuum to suck the air out and save space. Plastic bags could do the exact same job FOR FREE. Find some larger plastic bags, place the clothes you wish to put away in them, squeeze out any excess air, and tie them off. If you’re concerned about how thin the plastic is, just double bag them!
- Freezer Bags. This is a little unconventional, but I have done it for years, and I’m still kickin’. A few years ago my room-mate and I went grocery shopping. We returned home late at night and were exhausted, we did all our shopping for a month at once. I helped her carry everything into the house, and she volunteered to take care of the perishables, so I went to bed. I opened the freezer in the morning and found a dozen little tied off shopping bags. We used to buy huge family size packages of meat and break them down into two or three freezer bags. She explained to me that there wasn’t any freezer bags so she rinsed off some of the grocery bags and used them to store the meat in the freezer. At first I was disgusted, how could we eat that meat? Do you know how many germs and bacteria had touched those plastic bags? She explained to me that you boil water to kill bacteria, so when we cooked the meat it would most likely kill the bacteria. And also pointed out it really is no different than buying fruit that a million people have touched and placing it in a plastic bag. To this day if you open my freezer you will find a couple of tied off grocery bags. I don’t buy freezer bags.
- Reusable bags. Did you do your part and go out and purchase reusable shopping bags? Good for the environment, but not so great for your pockets. Why not just take back the plastic bags you already have laying around the house? Don’t be embarrassed, you would be surprised how many people actually do that, the cashiers don’t even blink twice anymore when you hand them a bag of plastic bags for your purchases. The grocery store I go to actually deducts .03 cents off my receipt for every bag I reuse. Bonus!