What to Do With All Those Reusable Bags!

I have a bit of a reusable bag problem. It started about 5 years ago, when reusable bags started getting more and more popular. I would buy one or two of them for a dollar each at the check-out line at Whole Foods, mostly because the large size and long straps made them incredible comfortable for lugging heavy groceries around the city.

Good for the environment, a discount on groceries each time I use them, AND easier to carry than paper bags? Awesome!

But the problem was that I kept forgetting them at home, so I'd have to buy new ones each time I went to the store. And it got worse because suddenly, reusable bags became THE giveaway item at ever wedding, conference, party, whatever that I attended. As my collection of reusable bags started growing, I found I had nowhere to keep them in my closet-bereft apartment. I also wasn't sure how to dispose the older reusable bags that were starting to tear or get worn out.

So I did a little research and found some options for what to do with extra or worn out reusable shopping bags. If you're anything like me, you'll find some of these tips helpful, too!

For Worn-Out Bags:
  • Exchange them: Whole Foods actually replaces their worn out bags free of charge, so if you have a few old ones that are ripped or starting to fall apart, just bring them to the store and they'll exchange them for a new and totally free one.
  • Recycle Them: For bags that are no longer usable (or just unwanted) there are actually companies such as Chico Bag in California, that run reusable bag recycling programs. They accept all kinds of reusable bags via mail, and clean and recycle them for underprivileged families. Broken or unusable bags are reused as fabric for other projects.

For Bags in Good or New Condition:

  • Donate them: We often take reusable bags for granted, but remember that there are many for whom that extra dollar or two to buy a bag is not as expendable. Donate your clean or new bags to a local food bank, church, or soup kitchen who can then pass them on to low-income families in your area. Better idea? Fill the bag with non-perishable foods before you donate it!
  • Pass them on: Next time you head to the store or farmer's market, bring an extra bag or two with you. While standing in line, offer them to someone near you not already holding a bag. 
  • Get creative: Use clean reusable bags for projects around the house--wrap presents with them, create washable book covers for your children's textbooks, use them as a laundry bag or beach tote, use to create padding when shipping packages