Reusable bags are everywhere, we can’t avoid them. If they were a persistent lover, we would’ve had enough, but they’re such a productive step in the right direction of being kinder to our environment, and thus necessary for a sustainable future. Only, you probably have more than enough by this point.
From around late 2019, supermarkets started banning plastic bags, meaning you either had to bring your own or buy a reusable fabric or recyclable plastic bag if you happened to forget yours at home.
Now we can’t speak for everyone, but there is at least one drawer in our kitchen that is brimming with reusable bags now and somehow, we just keep accumulating as shops favour free fabric totes in lieu of plastic bags (which we love).
So, in the spirit of a 2021 refresh, it’s time to declutter your cupboards and dispose of all those bags you don’t know what to do with.
Here’s exactly what to do with your spare reusable bags.
Plastic bags can cause big problems when placed in your kerbside recycling bin, as most councils around the country do not accept them. Even worse still is merely throwing them in the trash — it takes 500 years or so for a plastic bag to degrade.
But the good news is, most supermarkets accept plastic shopping bags for recycling. All you need to do is put them in the plastic bag recycling collection bin at the front of the store.
Many other types of Soft Plastics (including plastic bags), can now be recycled at selected supermarkets through a scheme run by the REDcycle program. These soft plastics include pasta and rice bags, lolly and biscuit packets, fresh fruit and veggie bags, frozen food bags, magazine and newspaper wrapping, and clean plastic wrap/film.
In simple terms, you just need to dispose of your reusable plastic bags in a “soft plastics” bin, of which there are more than ever before, but still, finding one may take a bit of a hunt or some light research. Once you find some locations near you, you can dispose of both your plastic and your fabric bags in the same bin.
Find your nearest soft plastic recycling location here.
With fabric bags, you can get a little more creative. These most commonly come in the form of a “green” supermarket bag, but each supermarket has its own design.
Because these bags tend to last quite a bit longer than their plastic counterparts, there are a few useful things you can do with them before you decide to get rid of them.
1. Think beyond the grocery store
Reusable bags are so handy. Imagine all of those times you walked past a store, decided to go in, found something you LOVE and then realise you don’t have enough room in your handbag to carry it home. In these moments, it can be easy to accept a bag from the store (which might not be made of sustainable materials), or it may just stop you purchasing something all together which isn’t fun. Imagine if you had a reusable bag on you at that moment? We recommend getting in the habit of folding one down super small, and carrying it around everywhere with you. We promise you won’t regret it.
2. Reuse them for storage
Fact: you can fit so much more in a cupboard if you store things in vessels. This is where your reusable bag comes in. Not only does it create more space, it also gives everything a place, making your storage more organised and can protect more delicate items from dust or damage.
3. Give them to someone in need
Many charities, food stores, and op shops accept reusable bags for their customers to use. Similarly, primary schools and kindergartens can always find use for them, with arts, crafts or even as spare library bags. Finding a recycling hub isn’t your only option, we can pretty much guarantee that if you rock up to any of these places with heaps of recyclable fabric bags, people will be grateful.
4. Fabric donations
Even when your tattered tote bags have well and truly reached the end of their life, they still don’t belong in the bin. Planet Ark and other recycling authorities will either accept or point you in the direction of fabric donation initiatives that are perfect for tote bags you no longer need. For example, mechanics can use your old totes as rags, while animal shelters can reuse fabric scraps for bedding.