Declutter & Recycle Plastic Grocery Bags: 15 Minute Mission

Today's mission is to declutter and recycle plastic grocery bags, as well as winnow it down to a more reasonable amount of paper bags and even reusable grocery bags if you have too many.

Most likely though your biggest problem is too many of those pesky plastic bags that you get at almost every store, including the grocery. It is very easy to gather way more of these bags than we can ever use, and they can easily accumulate in your home.

excess plastic grocery bags under sink
It is also very easy, when unpacking your groceries or other shopping items, to just keep shoving more and more of these bags into the area you've designated for them. But if you don't then make an effort to reuse them, or if you get more then you can reuse, they can just multiply!

That's what happened to a reader, LeeAnne, who shared this picture on the right with me. She said, "Mine are slopped up under the kitchen sink. Don't be jealous."

Now, ideally, you'll also eventually begin to transition to use less of these plastic bags and instead to more often use reusable shopping bags. But I'm not telling you today to get rid of every single one of the bags you currently have in your home.

After all, there are lots of uses around your home for these little bags, and you might as well have some of them for use as needed.

I just think you should most likely have less then you currently do, especially if you continue bringing them in each week when you go to the store. You're obviously not reusing them as quickly as they're accumulating if you have a huge amount.

In addition, I want to make it very clear that when I say you should declutter these excess plastic bags you've got floating around in your home that I don't mean you should throw them in the trash.

Often it is quite easy to recycle plastic bags, so there really is no reason to fill a landfill with them.

Below I've shared my extremely simple tip for recycling plastic bags without much effort on your part, at all!

Top photo is courtesy of Dan4th Nicholas

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to kitchen clutter.

Look At The Results When Readers Did This Mission!

use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

I thought this saying above was funny, but the reason is that it's often true! We keep shoving more plastic bags into more plastic bags.

But these readers have already done this mission, and look at all the bags that are leaving their house!

This photo below is from a reader, Sherry, who said: "I finally got rid of those grocery bags! They took up my passenger seat!! I only use 4 reusable bags now each trip."

Plastic grocery bags headed to be recycled after Sherry decluttered them from her house {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}

In addition, here's another photo from Ellen, who said, "I got rid of this many plastic and paper bags from one cupboard, and kept only five of each kind. My sister said it was like clowns from a clown car."

Plastic grocery bags decluttered from kitchen cabinets {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to kitchen clutter.

Where & How To Recycle Plastic Bags

So I mentioned above that it is easy to recycle plastic bags, and it really is. And because it is so easy, and because these bags do not readily biodegrade and would be in a landfill almost indefinitely it is important when decluttering to recycle them, instead of just trashing them.

plastic bags ready to be recycled
The picture on the left shows a large amount of plastic bags, and plastic film wrap (which is similar) that is ready to be recycled.

Generally these bags are either a #2 or #4 plastic, which is recyclable.

Often the easiest place to drop them off for recycling is at the store you actually received these bags from, such as Target (where I took the picture above) and Walmart. Typically these drop off locations are close to the front of the store, and they will take plastic bags from their own store and from competitors.

So all you really need to do to get these out of your home is gather them up, typically just stuffing a bunch of the bags inside one of the bags itself, and then put it in your car trunk. Next time you're at the store just drop them off as you go into the store. Easy peasy!

If you have other places that you recycle these bags tell me where you do it in the comments, for even more ideas for everyone.

Are You Ready To Declutter Your Home?

declutter 365
I hope this has inspired you to get rid of your excess plastic shopping bags.

When you begin to declutter the feeling you get is contagious, so if you're loving the results you're getting I would encourage you to keep going.

I've got a whole series of 15 minute decluttering missions (eventually 365 of them!) that you can do.

Just pick and choose the ones you want to do, that will make a big impact in your home. But if you want someone else to tell you the order you can also grab the 15 minute daily decluttering mission calendars and follow along as we all get our homes clutter free together!

Plus, if you do choose to keep some of your plastic bags to reuse in some way, here's ways to make your own plastic bag holder using containers you probably already have in your home right now!

DIY plastic bag holder ideas

How to declutter and recycle plastic grocery bags, including pictures from readers who've already done this #Declutter365 mission {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

Second picture courtesy of EvelynGiggles

Related Pages You May Enjoy

Getting Rid Of Kitchen Clutter Hall Of Fame

Go From Declutter & Recycle Plastic Grocery Bags Mission To Home Page

Comments for Where & How To Recycle Plastic Bags

Click here to add your own comments

crocheting with plastic bags
by: Pedie

Several years ago my mother was making plastic carrying bags from the colored plastic wrappers the newspaper was delivered in. Cut into 2" strips and crochet with a size H hook. Each time another strip was needed, a granny knot held it tight. Why not crochet a pad to place under a vase of flowers or a custom seat cover for those plastic chairs.

I reuse them until they are torn or dirty
by: Bev

I use every bag I bring home - paper or plastic. Paper collects all my recycles -our state recycles almost everything. Paper stands up easy and so it collects the recycles. I love the plastic bags. I use them in all my wastepaper baskets (8-9)I don't buy the smaller garbage bags, only the large one and on garbage day (every other week), all the plastic bags are collected and new ones put in. Another use is that I use them to store freezer items like bread and fresh bagels. I use 3 tightly wrapped around item and then easily write on the bag what is inside. The items inside may also be in a special freezer bag. I use a chest freezer so this works for me. I like to reuse and do until they are torn or dirty.

recycle plastic bags? NOT
by: kaytee

My sons, who work(ed) at retail stores with "recycle" bins for plastic bags, say that they are NOT recycled. Three different stores... one of their "tasks" was to empty the plastic bag recycle bin into the dumpster. Also, "leftover" seasonal and other greeting cards/wrapping paper, etc. and last-day of sale foods went in the dumpster-- even though there are groups who would be more than happy to pick up that "last day" food for various charity programs.

Plastic bags for pet beds
by: critter sitter

I throw those plastic bags into a zippered pillow case to make a cozy, padded bed for the cats and dogs. The bed doesn't absorb pet odors and gets re-fluffed every time the pillow case is washed.

more to recycle at the grocery store!
by: Jamie

I also save the grocery bags, but there's more we can add! Anything cellophane or thin plastic can go in the same bin. We recycle: plastic shopping bags from the mall, bread bags, the netting from an oranges, (cut off the metal band), frozen veggies bags (clean and dry the bags), zip bags, the thin plastic ring around the relish jars, etc. It doesn't seem like a lot, but in a week, we can fill a grocery bag with all the other cellophane/bags we can find, and none will go into the landfill!

Turn plastic shopping bags into.... plarn!
by: Debbie

Plarn! It's plastic yarn. One crocheted reusable tote bag uses up a hundred (or so) plastic shopping bags, is quite attractive and very strong!

I put mine under the kitchen sink too!
by: Linda

I always thought that I'm the only person who shoves plastic bags under the sink! Every time I open the cupboard door under the sink, I feel so embarrassed about the clutter! Now I have the courage to tackle my own mess and discard all those plastic bags!

doggie clean ups
by: Sue

I carry them for quick clean ups when I walk my dog. My city doesn't put out 'poop' bags on the trails any longer but I can fill their dispenser with my extra plastic bags. The city does still proved trash cans so we all win!

thrift stores like getting these bags
by: Jane

Many of the local thrift stores are glad to have these bags. It keeps their costs down and you get to do a good deed.

There are of course lots of things you can make with plastic bags. Just go to Pinterest, type in recycle plastic bags, and you will be inundated.

You can also re use them yourself. Put a few in your car instead of under your sink and then try to remember to take them in to the grocery store or clothing store with you and fill them up instead of paying for more to clutter your house.

Haven't had this kind of clutter in 20+ years
by: Christina

... since I lived in Germany in the 90s, when we had to PAY to buy bags at the grocery store. Paper bags cost about 10 cents, and plastic bags cost 50 cents. But a sturdy reusable cloth (washable) bag cost $1. So I have not used plastic bags since then, because I bought a bunch of fabric bags and have been using them for over 20 years.

It is very easy to kick the plastic bag clutter to the curb for good, if you just change to the habit of using cloth bags, and after just a month or two of using washable cloth bags, you won't miss the plastic bags at all. I never have a need for plastic bags and have never missed them.

give them to your local food pantry
by: Pat

Food pantry's are always in need of plastic grocery bags and often have shortages.

I reuse them, including for dirty smelly diapers
by: Amy

I normally use reusable canvas bags, but I do purposely not bring them about once a month. I use the plastic grocery bags for the small trash cans in my bathrooms, cleaning out the car, and for smelly diapers. I can't seem to keep enough these days. All get used for things like that. When we are no longer in diapers, I won't need to get as many, but that's a long way away...

line small trash cans with them
by: Heather

I also use recyclable cloth bags, have several that roll up like socks and you can pop them into your purse. I also make my own from used t-shirts (cut off sleeves and neckline). But I never seem to have enough with me especially when grocery shopping. So I end up paying for plastic. I use these to line small trash cans around the house (drop a couple in the bottom of the bin replace when you take out the full one). Years ago we used brown paper. They were so much stronger.

saving space by folding my bags into triangles
by: sharon

I fold my plastic grocery bags into triangles like we made as kids and keep them in a canister. I can carry a couple in my purse, takes up hardly any space. Directions can be found on Pinterest. But I do like the crocheting into mats for the homeless idea. Sounds great!

I never seem to have enough!
by: Lee

With a cat in the house who is very fussy about her litter I use these every day to hold scooped out poop. Double bagged.

Library - place to donate
by: Cheryl Mayers

I take plastic bags to the library, they are always welcomed.

lots of ideas for how to reuse them
by: Anonymous

Use them as garbage bags.

When sorting out summer and winter clothes, hats and scarves, swim wear etc.

When packing to go away, put shoes in them to keep the clothes clean.

When doing house work carry a bag around to pick up the bits and pieces.

Keep your dusters and polish all together.

If you have a toxic spray after use put in a bag for the next time you us it for extra safety from children or spillage.

waterproof barriers
by: Gigi

My mom's senior center has a group of ladies who cut the bags into strips and "crochet" them into waterproof pads to be given to the homeless who use them to provide a barrier between the ground and their blankets.

line trash cans and for kitty litter
by: Kim M

I use them as small bags to line the trash cans in the bathroom and kids room. I also use them when I empty the kitty litter so I don't have to bring the large trash bag down to the basement.

Libraries and day cares! - places to donate
by: Anonymous

I'm a librarian and we use donated plastic bags as carry bags for our patrons books and DVD's especially when it's raining. Also some day cares use them to send home soiled clothes or other items. Easy to write the child's name on with a permanent marker.

Plastic bag holder
by: Carol

I put my bags into a tissue box in the closet. This keeps them very compact and when the box gets too full return them to the store you shop at most often.

Use cloth/canvas bags, and when container for plastic ones overflow, time to return some to store
by: Elaine

I try to remember to use my cloth/canvas bags, but if I forget or need a few I either take them back to the store's recycle bin or I use them when cleaning the cat's litter box.

When keeping them under the sink I use a basket the size of a wastebasket to keep them in. If it overflows I know it's time to take them back to store. And under the sink looks good too with the basket.

donate to food pantries
by: Anonymous

Food pantries are grateful for donated grocery bags of any kind for packing clients' food.

2nd life for plastic bags
by: Ms M

I use the extra plastic bags on my dog walk to poop and scoop.

I also take the extra plastic bags to the dog park! There are many dog owners who forget to bring bags. So I hang a bag full of bags by the garbage bin, or a fence near the entrance.

Used at the dog park
by: Mary (ohansunta)

Eugene Oregon does not allow stores to hand out plastic bags. So the few I get I take to the dog park. They are always needed there.

Recycling an item to keep things tidy & organized
by: Anonymous

I always get those pesky plastic bags when we shop at grocery stores. What we have been doing is, you know those pesky cardboard paper towel cores you get after you have used up the paper towel? Well, a dear friend of mine gave me the idea to put those plastic bags in them, and just pull out and use them when we do trash run around the house, or when needing them for something else. However, I like your idea better about returning them to the stores and letting them recycle them. That way, it keeps them out of our landfills.

I do have a question though. How do we know that these plastic bags that are getting recycled, by these stores, are being sanitized, so they are clean for the next person, whose groceries go in those bags? Do these stores have a way of sanitizing them, so our groceries aren't being saturated in some kind of muck. I apologize if my question seems negative. I just know that there are others wondering the same thing. Especially, those that are germaphobes, like me, because they have health issues, and their immune system may be compromised.

I know that there are some disposal companies out there, but I can't find one that takes those pesky plastic grocery bags. They have a disclosure of what plastics they will or will not accept, and the plastic grocery bags is one of them on their list that they will not accept. Also, something about waxed plastic. Not sure of what that entails, but it those pesky plastic grocery bags seem to be made out of some waxy substance.

I'm so glad that I'm seeing information about recycling to declutter your home, because I am definitely a Recycleaholic (not sure if there is even a name such as that, but that is definitely a vise of mine.)

response re question about cleaning of the bags
by: Taylor

This is a response to the question of whether we know the stores are cleaning the bags before reuse. The answer is, I think you've misunderstood what I meant by recycle. The stores are not reusing the bags at their store, they are literally collecting them to be taken to a facility for recycling, so they are not used again in the same manner as before. Hope that helps explain that!

donate to library and use when walking dog
by: Anonymous

I donate some to local library as they use them at checkout. I'm a considerate dog walker and always have a bag or two in pocket. Recycle the rest at store.

knit or crochet into waterproof mats
by: Stacy

For those who camp the plastic bags can be cut into strips and knit or crocheted together to create a plastic barrier between the sleeping bag and the floor/ground. The completed mat can also be donated to a homeless shelter for those who are homeless to use as a moisture barrier between the ground and what they are sleeping on/under.

by: Patty Counts

I use those little bags that our newspaper comes in (one a day!) when I take my dogs for a walk. Just put your hand inside, pick up poop, then pull from elbow down over hand and poop. Then throwing away does not hurt so bad and neighbors really appreciate it!

for scooped kittle litter
by: Lynn

We use the plastic bags to scoop used kitty litter into. The others get returned to the grocery store in the recycle bin.

found good use fore plastic bags
by: Anonymous

I reuse them to line trash cans. But I've also used a lot of them in the past 6 months to stuff sheep and other things that I was making for stage props. I like to use them to stuff things like that because I don't have to buy poly fill.

Use of plastic bags when packing suitcase
by: Janet

I travel for work and keep a bunch of larger plastic bags to layer among my clothes - reduces wrinkles

Use to clean out kitty litter box
by: Connie

We use when we clean out our kitty litter box. We donate the overflow bags to our church who has a food pantry.

I use them for garbage and more
by: Jade Dragon

Our plastic bags are used for garbage bags. Each evening I take the one used that day, tie it up and it goes to the garage and into the garbage can until it is time for trash pick up (Mondays here). Then I put out a fresh one, ready for the next day. Into the bag goes coffee grounds and any and all other food trash as well as food cans and jars, used paper towels and whatever. By the end of the day it is time to tie it up and start off fresh again.

I have one store which will give me paper bags. Those I empty and refold and put in my donation box. They go to the local food pantry/and assistance store. They are usually delighted to get full size grocery bags for their food pantry.

plastic bag roll
by: Anonymous

I reuse the plastic bags, but found a way to keep them neater. I fold them in half and roll them onto one roll. Pull out from the center, put an elastic band around the outside. It works for me!

leave them at ALDI'S or RULER FOODS
by: Anonymous

Leave them at one of the grocery stores that require you to pay for plastic bags, such as ALDIS or RULER FOODS. Not sure if many have those kind of stores, but we do in KY.

Packing material
by: Anonymous

I use the plastic bags as packing material when I need to send a package.

give to a food bank
by: Edie

I volunteer at a food bank. We could always use more plastic bags to make up emergency hampers etc.

another vote for the food bank
by: Peggy R.

I donate mine to the local food bank. The thrift shop gets the paper bags.

stuffing them in handbags
by: Anonymous

I use them also to stuff my handbags so they keep their shape during storage.

Brown paper bags
by: Anonymous

What can I do with brown paper bags? I have a lot of them.
Thank you :-)

Ways to make plastic bags useful
by: Anonymous

Pass you bags on to people who cut and turn bags into mats for homeless!

Plastic bag crochet
by: Anonymous

In our area there are church groups who take the plastic bags to cut into 2" wide strips, then link the loops together to make crochet "yarn." They make mats out of them and give them away to people who are sleeping on the ground.

But it is true enough that nearly every major retailer that puts things in plastic bags for you to carry home takes the bags back.

Some years ago some of my relatives did a "cloth bag exchange" because we live in different parts of the country. I sent bags from my area to them, and they sent bags from their area to me. We have "Piggly Wiggly" stores here and that is a favorite bag to have so, of course, I shared plenty of those.

waste basket liners
by: Anonymous

I use some as waste basket liners, too. I put several in the bottom of the waste basket so that there's always one there when I take the one we are filling away.

For people who live in apartment buildings where there's a garbage chute they are often just the right size to slide down the chute but you have to make sure there is something heavy enough in them to carry them all the way to the dumpster.

One way I recycle plastic bags is in the freezer
by: Jeanette

Lots of hunters in our family. One way I recycle the plastic bags is to wrap the wild turkeys in approx 8. This puts them to use and I don't have to buy freezer bags to fit a whole turkey.

PLEASE make PLARN (Plastic Yarn) & crochet for Homeless!
by: NinaMOH

Plarn (plastic yarn) is so easy to make! Please you tube or google "plarn crochet sleeping mats for homeless". Plastic bags are cut into 2" rings and joined together. Then you wind that into balls of plarn. Mats are crocheted 3' x 6' My sister takes her finished mats to the Salvation Army to be given to the homeless. The plarn sleeping mats provide a layer for them, are lightweight, and can get wet. Thank you for recycling!

Crochet them into new bags
by: Anonymous

I take my plastic bags and crochet new bags with them.

I also use them to line the smaller bathroom trash cans, makes it easy for my kids to pull one bag out and tie a knot and drop it in the lager curbside bin.

I place extras, folded, in small baskets
by: Anonymous

Thanks for the reminder. I need to take ours into a recycle bin. For the ones I keep at home I found that smoothing them out and folding them is a lot neater. I got a small basket from dollar tree, and I put the folded ones in each bathroom. I use these as liners in the wastebaskets. I also have some in the kitchen for the under the sink wastebasket, which is rather small. It's a lot cheaper than paying for the liners.

Homeless Mat
by: Anonymous

I have a friend who ties the bags together and then weaves or knits out crochets (something crafty like that) them into a mat to give to the homeless to lie on. They are sturdy, light weight, padded by the plastic, and easy to clean. She also creates them into beach bags. Fascinating!

Where can I store my blue bags
by: Tina

Hi, I shop with my reusable bags, but occasionally get some plastic grocery bags because I use them for bathroom trash can liners and scooping the dog poop. Right now I just stuff them under the bathroom sinks for easy refills and on a shelf in the garage. The only problem is when my husband goes for these bags in the garage to do his duty, I find them all over the garage floor.

Any ideas?

Reuse ideas
by: Paula R.

As a Girl Scout Mom I used the bags during cookie booth sales. As a health care provider I used the bags to help separate and store supplies in my car (before trunk bins were provided). Also, one of my co-workers said she used them as shoe covers in muddy situations-nice when you don't want to get your car muddy or track mud into a patient's home.

I got rid of the unusable ones
by: Megan

I finally cleaned mine out. I reuse them for my lunches (I do have a reusable bag, but I use the plastic bags to line it to keep it clean) and for when I scoop out the cat litter (I usually reuse the lunch bags for this), so I can't go to reusable grocery bags only. But I did go through and pull out the unusable ones (anything with a hole - not good for poopy cat litter!) and took them to the grocery store to recycle. Now I have a much more manageable amount of bags that I keep in a tote in the kitchen.

taking many to the thrift store
by: Anonymous

I'm taking mine to Joseph's Storehouse (a thrift store). The cashier told me she never has enough. I will keep enough to use for the big garage sale I am going to have when I finish de-cluttering.

Thanks for the ideas!
by: Silvia

I want to thank everyone with their ideas for recycling plastic bags! I did not have any new ideas because I too reuse mine for certain things that have been mentioned. The one I really like is the one that uses them for making mats for the homeless. Unfortunately, I have just recycled all the bags I had a week ago, but in the future I would like to try crocheting these mats, all I need is a pattern! Someone mentioned checking out Pinterest, thanks for all the ideas I haven't thought of! Keep recycling!

pick up doggie waste
by: Barbara

I live in an apartment complex with specific grass dog areas with a bag holder. We place our plastic bags in the provided container to use them to pick up doggie waste!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
by: Kitty

1. Litter waste to trash
2. Collect plastic bottles by tens to take to trunk with fabric shopping bags so they don't pile up in house before next shopping trip.
3. I actually pile 5-10 inside one another on small trash containers in house, so when you throw one away you don't have look for more. This helps me on weekly basis and keeps that big pile from growing.
4. I actually fold them flat so I can reuse the ones without holes at later time. They tuck easily inside an empty tissue box ;-).

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to kitchen clutter.

Get Email Updates & Newsletter

home puzzle

Let me help you put the pieces of your home puzzle together. Join over 200,000 others and get tips, articles and organizing challenges sent directly to your inbox to help you get your house in order. Plus, you'll get a free 12 month declutter calendar for 2016!

Let's Stay Connected!

follow Home Storage Solutions 101 with RSS be a fan of Home Storage Solutions 101 on Facebook follow Home Storage Solutions 101 on Twitter

follow Home Storage Solutions 101 on G+ Follow Taylor on Pinterest follow Taylor on Instagram

Join Over 200,000 Others And Get Organized Starting Today With Tips From My Newsletter

Join The Declutter 365 Facebook Group (100,000+ Members)