Zero Waste Tip: Reuse Instead of Buying Plastic Bags

Environmentalists have celebrated the passing of plastic bag bans all over the country, but still, we are not even close to being free of these products. Even the most dedicated Zero Waster finds themselves in possession of the occasional plastic bag. While we work to eliminate them totally, these are great items to reuse!

Reusing plastic bags can be as simple as using it as it multiple times for its intended purpose, to carry an assortment of other items, instead of only using it once. Plastic bags are compatible and easy to stash for when the need arises. For pet owners, they are perfect for picking up pet waste. They are conveniently waterproof for holding wet clothes, or sloppy materials. It may sound like this is even an advocation of plastic bags. In some ways, it is, but NOT as disposables. Even plastic has its place. It is an incredibly useful invention that propelled innovation across many fields. But plastic should be valued and held onto and used sparingly, NOT disposed of after a few minutes, only to get a new one later that day.

[Art by Kristin Nohe Juchs]

Because we are inundated with plastic bags everywhere we go, it seems redundant that we should ever purchase plastic bags in addition. And yet this is a common practice for one area in particular: to line our trash cans. Unlike recycling, trash should be disposed of sealed in a plastic bag to help prevent environmental litter. Plastic trash bags are the 4th largest San Diego plastic product in the waste stream. We are making so much waste just to hold our other waste.

The principle of reuse is that satisfying feeling of using something you already have for something you need; when you can reuse in order to reduce and not have to spend money to create more waste. Reusing a plastic bag for your trash is one such way we can take something we inevitably have and put it towards a need we inevitably need. Yes, plastic bags are quite a bit smaller than the average kitchen trash bag, but what a great way to set a goal for reducing your waste.

If you’re interested in learning how to recycle plastic bags, check out our post detailing locations with bag recycling collection in your area.