#plasticfreelife, with 42 plastic bags

Let’s make reusing fun!

I really enjoy crocheting and creating with my hands. So when my aunt cleared out her apartment last fall, she found herself with an entire garbage bag FULL of plastic bags. She could have just recycled them, but instead asked if I wanted them. Enthusiastically, I said YES!


Because with a little bit of work, I can turn these wasteful single use plastic bags into cute and useful items! By cutting the plastic bags into strips and then making ‘yarn’ with those strips, you can crochet away!

IMG_4287This week, I decided to crochet a desk ‘box’ for my books and notebooks that I always keep on my desk. It didn’t take me long to crochet it, and there is approximately 42 single use plastic bags in it.

42 single use plastic bags that only had a lifetime use of 17 minutes. 42 single use plastic bags that might have ended up in the landfill. 42 single use plastic bags that might have been flown to the other side of the world. 42 single use plastic bags that we didn’t need to be used in the first place.

These 42 single use plastic bags have a new life!

Where have all the plastic bags gone?

I tried to do some research about what actually happens to a plastic bag when you recycle it. And there is surprisingly little concrete information about what actually happens when you put your plastic bag in the recycling. I’m lucky that you can recycle plastic and plastic bags in Sioux Falls (you just need to make sure you put it all into 1 plastic bag). Most cities require you to take your plastics to the grocery store and they recycle it (which is what I did when I was at jen’s house in Tasmania).

But what actually happens to those plastic bags? In the US, most plastic bags are recycled into timber composite (so a combination of recycled wood pellets and recycled plastics). Or they are just recycled into more plastic bags. A huge majority just gets sent to the landfill. Recycling plastics is still expensive, and it is usually cheaper to create new products with new materials. Plus, recyclers have to ensure that the plastics aren’t tainted and dirty, and you can imagine how challenging that can be!

While I was in Australia, I watched War on Waste. Craig tried to trace where the plastic bags end up after you take them to the grocery store by putting gps trackers into the bag of plastic bags. Over the course of the season, he updates us on where the gps trackers are. 1 ends up in a landfill, 1 ends up at some sort of recycling facility in Australia and just sits there, and the other ends up overseas.

Frequent Flier Miles of Waste

Countries and businesses have been buying and selling trash, much like they do for every other commodity, for decades. I had no idea that this was happening until a few years ago. I was having dinner at a friend’s house in India and one of his nephews was visiting from the US. I asked what he did, and learned that companies buy and sell TRASH, and that is what he did. He bought and sold used paper to companies between the US and India. Turns out that companies could buy recycled paper on the cheap in India, and then make and sell recycled paper in the US. I was FASCINATED!!!!

China has been buying TONS of trash from the world, for decades. In 2016, they processed over HALF of the world’s exports of waste plastic, paper and metals. China was willing to take it, it was cheaper for them to process and recycle these materials, and environmental regulations are generally less stringent there than in other countries (and recycling some of these materials can be super dirty to our environment). In that same year, the US alone sent over U$5 billion of waste materials to China. But at the beginning of this year, China said they weren’t going to take any more waste.

Countries around the globe have been swimming in their own waste ever since. No one knows what to do with their waste!

Think next time!

IMG_4289So next time you are at the grocery store and think that getting 1 plastic bag isn’t a big deal, think about where that plastic bag might end up. Will it end up in a landfill? Will it end up sitting in storage because China won’t buy it? Or will it end up being incinerated? Or will it end up in one of my crocheted projects?

I hope you are inspired to just keep it at the grocery store!


purple circles

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