How Many Ways Are There To Reuse A Plastic Shopping Bag?

While the debate rages about the merits of reusable grocery bags vs. plastic shopping bags, stores like Walgreens are pushing the many ways shoppers can reuse plastic bags with this handy list printed on the bag’s side.

If you can’t read the text on this Walgreens bag, it suggests these 5 ways you can get at least one more use out of it:

1. Shoe Protectors
Assuming they mean you can wrap the bags around your shoes when trudging through particularly wet, muddy or snowy streets. Not exactly fashionable, but I have seen it done.

2. Dirty Diaper Holder
Amen. Plastic shopping bags are basically the original Diaper Genie.

3. Freezer Bag
I’ve had mixed results with this and I’ve always found plastic wrap works better. But in a pinch…

4. Rubber Gloves
This one I don’t really understand, especially since plastic shopping bags are not rubber. And anything I can think of that you’d use rubber gloves for — from washing dishes to cleaning a wound — don’t seem to mesh with wrapping a used plastic bag on my hand. Anyone out there have an idea what they might be getting at?

5. Plant Protector
I’ve certainly seen my share of plants and seedlings sheathed in grocery bags, though my thumb is far from green so I have no idea if this is truly effective.

I’m surprised by the lack of “Dog Poo Disposal,” since every person I see walking a dog has an old grocery bag at the ready — or they’re toting a refilled bag gingerly to the trash can.

What do you think of this list? More importantly, what other secondary purposes have you found for plastic grocery bags?

There’s always this:


Edit Your Comment

  1. JoeXJoe says:

    I think by rubber gloves they mean for things such as pet feces. Gross things one would not want to touch.

    • sleze69 says:

      I reuse the plastic bags as lunch bags and for picking up dog poop. I am very annoyed by stores charging anything for the plastic bags.

    • chefboyardee says:

      i use one bag around my hand, rubber banded to my wrist, and a double bag to drop the poop into. very handy. the double bag is in case there’s a hole i didn’t see and everything falls out when i get halfway full (i learned to do that from experience).

      random, but i also always carry a plastic shopping bag in my back pocket (i’m a male who always wears cargo pants of some kind so i can get away with it with no problem). it’s amazing how many uses i’ve found for said bag during my travels.

      also, seconding mdsasquatch, perfect size for bathroom trash cans.

      • longdvsn says:

        Target has been labeling bags like this for years with secondary purposes. And Target’s make a lot more sense…specifically mentioning Tiny Trash Can Liner, Doggy Duty, Tomorrow’s Lunch Bag, etc.

  2. rahntwo says:

    6. Toys for toddlers.

  3. Mike says:

    I use plastic bags to make hoods for kids. Kids love them see:

  4. MDSasquatch says:

    1. They fit perfectly in my bathroom trash can.
    2. Great for scooping out the cat leavings from the litter box
    3. I work in DC and they have a new law that requires a $0.05 charge for every plastic bag. I got one a few months ago and have been re-using it as a plastic bag for a long time. I think I have already got my value out of it, but can’t seem to let it go.

    • fjordtjie says:

      #2, very yes. i keep a pile of them by the box for just such occasions.

    • Anonymously says:

      I use them for cat little too. Does anyone know a better way to dispose of it because putting it out with the trash?

    • Southern says:

      I too use them for the little 2 gallon bathroom garbage cans.

      I also use them when I empty the ash trays on the patio; tie them up and the smell doesn’t permeate.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      yes, bathroom trash bags! i found a bathroom trash can that has a curve to it that sends each end on top [it’s an oval] up in a swoop – the handle of the plastic grocery bag kind of hangs on these quite nicely.
      i’m always confused that my sister has a whole cabinet crammed full of plastic bags waiting to be reused and buys special little trash bags for scooping her cat litter.

  5. kchu says:

    They sure came up with obscure uses, forgetting totally normal ones like:
    Recycling / garbage disposal
    Lunch bag – the fridge at my office is full of them

    • longdvsn says:

      Bingo! Target has been writing recommendations on their bags for years. Target’s reads as follows (I have one in front of me)…
      1. Tiny Trash Can Liner
      2. Doggy Duty
      3. Soggy Laundry
      4. Tomorrow’s Lunch Bag
      5. Care Package Padding

      All of these are uses I actually use my bags for. Go Target!

  6. llryuujinll says:

    vomit receptacle, trash can liner, and if you can get enough packaging peanuts

    • puppylove says:

      In my experience, probably the majority of plastic bags have holes in them. Many of them are small and insignificant for most purposes, but you’d better check it thoroughly if it’s for catching vomit…

  7. nybiker says:

    That scene always made me wonder if there were a bunch of people with leaf blowers off-camera making that bag dance like that.
    One of my uses for plastic bags is to hang one on a door knob in my kitchen so I can put my glass, plastic, & metal items for recycling; once the bag is full (or close to it), I bring it out and empty it into the blue recycling container for the NYC Sanitation folks. The deposit bottles, if any, go in a different bag.

    • zandar says:

      to get that hollywood-perfect look, maybe they did. But I have seen plenty of plastic shopping bags go airborne on a windy day. they are quite aerodynamic, which is the perfect lead-in for my suggestion: parachute.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        green army man, a couple of washers tied on the bag handles for weights, and yes, you have a perfect grocery bag parachute

  8. Raekwon says:

    I thought of shoe protectors meaning when I pack my potentially dirty shoes in my luggage I wrap them in plastic to keep the dirt off my clothes. Also useful when packing dirty clothes at the end of your trip.

    Rubber gloves like other posters I assumed was for cleaning poop as well.

    Another more obscure use was when shipping boxes that would be put on a boat. The cheapest method of shipping often means there is potential for items to get wet so I wrapped everything in plastic bags just in case.

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      When I used to play ball ( read: Soccer) in bad weather, I would put a plastic bag over my regular socks, under my shin guards, and then pull on my game socks. This way, my feet would stay relatively dry and keep my normal socks clean from mud.

  9. Buckus says:

    Trash bags. I almost never buy trash bags, and then only for larger receptacles. For around-the house trash, they work great. If I bought recyclable grocery bags, then I’d have to buy trash bags, too. Also, cat poo.

  10. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    6. Carrying lunch to work
    7. Scooping cat litter into
    8. Picking up dog poop

    I’m guessing they’re not very good for covering a textbook — what do kids use today for that stuff? I haven’t seen a paper grocery bag in years.

    • Mecharine says:

      I know hobby stores sell those sheets of brown paper (like paper bags). They still wrap textbooks in that stuff.

      • Tim says:

        Yeah, I used that when I was in school. Well, it was a thick brown paper, and I think its use was supposed to be wrapping things for shipping. But the material was very similar to a brown paper bag.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        craft paper. even target has it in either the wrapping paper or shipping supplies section. i use it for gift wrap and hand decorate it

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      They have these elastic spandex things that go over them. Ive seen them all over the place for a few years now.

      I loved scribbling all over my paper bag book covers!

  11. Mecharine says:

    I use them for garbage bags for those small waste bins.

  12. Speak says:

    I use mine as the bathroom / bedroom trash can liners & kitty litter removal bags as well as dog dropping picker uppers when walking the dog. That’s why I don’t want to stop using these wonderful inventions. I go though at about 6 per week which is close to the number of bags I get per week.
    For rubber gloves perhaps it means while painting or something like that, holding dirty objects that you wouldn’t want to get directly on your hands?

  13. It'sRexManningDay! says:

    Definitely dog poo bags, and also dirty kitty litter removal bags.

  14. knoxblox says:

    I could see the shoe thing if they weren’t so thin. My mom used to strap bread bags over my boots when I was a kid to prevent water seepage.

    From a waste standpoint, the poop idea doesn’t sound so good. There are companies now who make faux-plastic bags out of plant materials. I love my local convenience store for using them. They don’t break down as quickly as paper so they can hold a steaming poo log without falling apart.

    Even worse, wrapping dirty disposable diapers in plastic is only compounding an already serious problem of extremely long degradation periods, if they degrade at all.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      We did the same thing with bread bags when I was a kid — though, we wore them over our socks but under our boots.

      • Yorick says:

        My mother made us kids wear plastic baggies inside our winter boots when I was a kid. I hated it. And we were the only kids whose mom made them do that. It was embarrassing. And the bully loved it.

        (also, I think our winter boots were actually galoshes, when all the other kids got moon boots. feh.)

        • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

          We always wore bread bags or baggies under our boots. Solidarity, baggie-feeted brothers and sisters!

    • kjherron says:

      As I understand it, the idea that things biodegrade in a landfill is somewhat of a myth. Landfills tend to entomb their contents rather than let them break down. I’ve read of scientists studying landfills who’ve dug up perfectly good newspapers from the 1950’s.

  15. grucifer says:

    These can also be re-used like stockings for gentlemen (and/or ladies) who rob places, right? Nothing like a plastic bag to conceal ones face while trying to commit a robbery!

  16. c!tizen says:

    I use mine to carry groceries from the store to my car, then from my car into my house. Then I use them as my “see how many grocery bags I can put into one grocery bag” project; which I’ve found is a great cat toy.

  17. Tim says:

    I live in DC, where they charge for plastic bags, so I use reusable ones. But I used to live in Virginia and I still work there, so I still have a bunch of bags.

    My main use for them is lining small trash cans. I actually empty out the bag when I take out the trash and keep the bag in the can, so they last a really long time.

    • brinks says:

      That’s one of my favorite uses for them as well. When I read that older Consumerist article about a possible ban on them in some places, I thought it was ridiculous. I’m still going to put plastic bags in my trash can…I’d just have to BUY them. It wouldn’t actually save any plastic in this case.

  18. denros says:

    Whatever you do, do NOT use the same bag for all the above, especially in that sequence…

  19. janeslogin says:

    I give my extras to the senior center thrift shop.

  20. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Here’s how I have reused plastic bags:

    -i use them to put wet clothes in after going to the beach/river/water park
    -trashcan liners for the bathrooms
    -trash bag for the car
    -bring my lunch to work in them
    -use them to cover my head in the rain if I don’t have an umbrella
    -use to spread butter on a casserole dish (well, i only did that once)
    -i used to scoop out cat crap and into them
    -i use them to put vegetable scraps/food that wasn’t eaten in – then put it in the kitchen trash. Prevents odor and bugs better than just throwing them in there.
    -Roommate used to use them to put the recyclables in
    -I’ve used them while dying my hair
    -i’ve used them as “gloves” to put vaseline on my dry feet when I lived up north
    -i’ve used them as packing material
    -i’ve donated them to thrift stores

    • chefboyardee says:

      packing material, i forgot about that! we did that the last few times we moved. ran out of clothes to pad with, ended up wrapping glassware in plastic bags and padding the box with plastic bags. nothing broke.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      yes, hair dye! i haven’t dyed mine in a while so i forgot but wrapping one around my sopping dyed hair saves a towel while waiting the required time!

  21. Tallanvor says:

    They’ve been charging for bags for years in Norway. It’s equivalent to something like 20 cents, but they’re sturdier than the crappy bags you usually get in the States. I use one to put my used gym clothes in so everything else in my gym bag doesn’t get nasty. –Every couple of months I replace it with another one.

    I still end up getting more bags than I’d like, but I don’t always remember to have a spare bag with me in case I decide to stop at the store.

    Oh, and when I carry booze to a party, I’m usually in no condition to think about bringing it back home with me! :)

    • SenorBob says:

      Same with Finland. They charge for the bags, but they’re REALLY thick and sturdy. You could easily carry 5 or 6 liters of soda in one.

  22. jenjenjen says:

    I use them for garbage bags in the kitchen. One hangs on a little hook and collects all the non-recycle stuff. One goes in the freezer for the stuff that would get too stinky by the time the regular bag is full.

  23. scoutiebear says:

    homeless man underpants, seen it done

  24. TouchMyMonkey says:

    The stuff we scoop out of the kitty litter goes in these bags before going into the can. Handy and cheap.

  25. Major Annoyance says:

    Makes no difference… sooner or later they’re gonna wind up in a landfill… and that’s just the best scenario.

  26. anime_runs_my_life says:

    I noticed on a plastic bag I got recently from a clothing store it was an oxy-something or other, and that it would biodegrade. It makes me wonder how expensive those bags are and why more places aren’t using them.

    Oh and I use my plastic bags for the bathroom trashcans, to hold crushed soda cans in baskets until they get full and can be put in a larger bag for recycling, to carry my lunch in, and the husbnd uses them to carry books he shares with co-workers.

  27. shof515 says:

    I use my bags to take letters and small packages to the post office since the USPS is unable to do a pickup for first class parcels :(

  28. hamburglar says:

    -Cover for a bike seat, when you have to lock up outside in the rain.

    We mostly use them for cat litter, though I’ve seen that mentioned a bunch already. We try to use our reusable cloth shopping bags as much as possible, but sometimes we need to lay off on the cloth bags for a time to replenish our supply of plastic bags for cat litter disposal.

  29. jimmyhl says:

    I have two dogs so….most of my bags are kept by the front door for poop pickups.

    If you have kids who have a hard time putting on winter boots and ice skates, slip a bag over each stocking foot and the foot slides right into the boot.

  30. kristinabeana says:

    My son’s daycare uses them to return clothes to us – his wet bathing suit on the days the play in the sprinkler, or clothes that he got dirty/smelly. Makes it much easier for them to deal with wet or smelly things, and easier for us to get home and get to our laundry area.

  31. MarkSweat says:

    For the “rubber glove”, I used them while removing a rotting possum carcas from under my house.

    I stock my hands in about three layered bags each (you do NOT want one to have a leak or rip) and could safely and easily handle the disgusting thing.

    Then, when putting it in its disposal container, they fell right off my hand – easier than removing rubber gloves covered with… well, you don’t want to know what they were covered with.

  32. Starrion says:

    They are very useful when painting for everything from using as gloves, to holding wet paintbrushes to small area dropclothes.

    I collect these from family for the dirty diapers. Invaluable.
    Plus we have a cat.

  33. JulesNoctambule says:

    Cut them into long strips and knit/crochet things like sleeves for coffee cups, a mat to go under the cat box, etc.

  34. primeline31 says:

    Food storage: Place turkey carcass and accompanying unsliced turkey legs into it and twist tie shut. Jam it in the fridge. Slide opened but not emptied flat supermarket trays of hamburgers or chicken parts. Twist tie shut & fridge it.

    Painting: when pausing while painting, place roller or brush in bag so they don’t dry out. Do the same with the paint tray.

    Sharing plants – short on pots? Friends want divisions of your garden plants? No problem. Just dig it up, divide and slip them into supermarket bags with the tops poking out. Add a small splash of water, if necessary. and pass them the plant by the bag handles.

  35. Suzie says:

    I don’t remember where I saw this, but always found it funny. The people of the future will wonder why we thought dog and cat poop are special by placing in non-destructible bags.

  36. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Poke a hole in it and use it for mouth to mouth.

  37. RogalDorn says:

    I use them like packing peanuts to protect things when shipping. Or as filler for cardboard boxes in storage so I can stack them without them crushing..

  38. JonBoy470 says:

    6. Container for cat litter box scoopings
    7. When your crdit card won’t scan at th rgister, put it in a bag then run it again. No idea why it works, but it does.

  39. trentblase says:

    Plastic bag storage.

  40. Memtex784 says:

    I usually pick up the leftovers my cat usually leaves behind outside with the bags.

  41. Amy Alkon says:

    I used reusable bags back when people would look at you like you were stealing for bringing your own, but now I get paper bags so I can leave bottles out for the homeless, so they don’t have to go through the trash can.

  42. KrispyKrink says:

    I use them for my dog’s poop and as my trash bags. And curse anyone who tries to tax our ban them. I’m not going to buy “special” bags to do what these do perfectly fine.

  43. Wonderbrick says:

    By far the best use for using them(and using alot of them), is use them in-place of packing-peanuts when shipping stuff via UPS/Fedex. This should become as widely-known as possible, and become a part of our shipping-culture.

  44. Wonderbrick says:

    By far the best use for using them(and using alot of them), is use them in-place of packing-peanuts when shipping stuff via UPS/Fedex. This should become as widely-known as possible, and become a part of our shipping-culture.

  45. heldc says:

    I’ve used grocery size plastic bags as gloves to keep my hands clean while dying my hair before. (I was at an anime convention at a hotel, and could not for love or money get any actual plastic gloves.) It was a bit clunky, quite like wearing mittens, but in the end my hair got dyed and my hands did not.

  46. ellemdee says:

    I put a plastic bag over my hand when cleaning out my drains. Sure, I could wear gloves, but the bag has the added benefit of being able to be turned inside out to contain whatever nastiness I pull out of the drain for easy disposal and my hands stay drain-slime free.

    I just noticed that one of the plastic bags I recently received has a list of benefits over paper bags on it…production uses less energy, produces fewer pollutants, and doesn’t destroy trees (made from natural gas instead of trees or even oil) , creates less road traffic (a truck can hold 7 times as many plastic bags as paper bags), it’s 100% recyclable and takes up less space in landfills. Kinda makes you think twice about the supposed environmental concerns behind stores’ push to do away with “evil” plastic bags (unless you want to pay for them, of course, then they’re suddenly not so evil any more and they’d be happy to provide them to you).

  47. Yorick says:

    I had to remove a doorknob from a closet door in this small apartment (position of it would potentially break glass if opened fast or hard) but couldn’t get the latch removed. so I threaded a rolled-up grocery bag thru the hole and tied it around the latch so it can’t be fully closed (and therefore never opened again)

    I also used some bags as filler/insulation for a gap of an inside wall, before sealing it with caulk, entombing them forever (which is about how long it would take to break down, right?)

  48. mystery79 says:

    Target has tips on their bags too.

    I use the bags for a couple things – small non perishable (plastic or paper) trash bags, liners for my bathroom trash and litter box scooping bags (double bag, do not want to deal with any kind of “breakage) but I still have way too many bags left over. I keep thinking I’ll recycle them but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  49. emily1452 says:

    I use plastic bags over my shoes when scooping dog poop – that way if i unknowingly step in it I won’t track it through the house.