#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!

This 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!

So 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!


i got a little annoyed with the guy at the grocery store check out.

see, i’m trying to be more conscious about the waste that i generate, especially in regards to plastic. i was shopping at the grocery store and bought a little bunch of cilantro. when i got to the check out, he put it in a plastic bag! why does my little bunch of cilantro need a plastic bag! i brought my own bags, i don’t want plastic!

we then got into a whole conversation about why i don’t want plastic. he said, ‘but things won’t change until everyone in america does it. and that won’t happen.’ yes, he has a point. BUT i’m not going to use plastic just because change seems impossible. we had a positive conversation, even though i was a bit angry about the plastic in the beginning.

i came home and told dad. he said they’ll probably call me the crazy plastic bag person now. and ya know what? that’s fine! because that means that they are talking about plastic!! a few days later, dad went and bought new socks. he didn’t use a plastic bag. he just carried them out.

so my crazy ramblings worked on 1 person. 😎

are you trying to reduce your plastic? what tips and tricks have you discovered? share in the comments below!

zero waste

a few weeks ago, i realized that i wouldn’t have needed to take out the trash bin if it wasn’t for chip packets. bron reminded me that i can save and recycle soft plastic at coles, so i decided to challenge myself to be zero waste and see what happens!

after 2 weeks, this was my trash:

things i learned from my trash this week:

  • some rice cracker packets can be put in the recycling! but i had 1 that couldn’t-so don’t buy the sweet chili flavoured rice crackers.
  • 2 plastic q-tips. i’m pretty sure these are still leftover from my sangam days, but i did learn that you can put your paper q-tips in your composting! so you should buy those in the future!
  • coffee bags are not recyclable. this is a huge bummer, and something i refuse to stop buying. BUT i can go back to the days where i would save my cool looking coffee bags and make wallets out of them! (this one isn’t cute so trash it is.)
  • spice packets and those weird silver foil things you pull off bottle tops are just weird and i don’t know why they are made or what the purpose of them is. but i can’t buy a large thing of taco seasoning here, so packets that end up in the trash will have to do.
  • styrofoam trays. how in this day and age are we still making those stupid things? can’t we make something that is actually recyclable? the reason i ended up with this is because i wanted corn and it was the only corn available in the shop. note to self: plan ahead and shop at a bigger store.

i have 1 plastic bag full of soft plastics that can be taken to the coles recycling bin next time i go to town. and the rest of my ‘waste’ went into the regular recycling bin!

i’m not sure if it is humanly possible to be zero waste, especially in this day of age when the things we buy are in so much packaging! BUT we can be smart consumers and ensure that what we buy is recyclable where we live. if it isn’t? do you really need it? is there a substitute that you can purchase instead that IS recyclable?

all things to keep in mind to try and reduce our impact on our beautiful planet!


Today is #earthday, a day where we should stop and reflect on how our daily actions are impacting our planet.

I just saw baobabs in Madagascar. These amazing trees are basically the dinosaurs of the floral family; they can live for thousands of years and have probably seen a lot of things. Yet, people have carved their names into the sides to forever show that they were here at some point in time. Why do humans feel the need to make their mark permanent?

I strive to reduce my waste, especially in regards to plastic. Plastic NEVER leaves the planet. It takes hundreds of years to decompose into tiny plastic particles, and these never leave. They settle into the oceans where they also make their way into fish, whales and other sea life. And if you eat fish, you might also be eating plastic! It’s very easy to reduce your plastic waste: bring a cloth bag, reuse the plastic bags you do have, use a reusable water bottle, wear your plastic flip flops until they have multiple holes worn through them.

You don’t need to live a completely sustainable life, I fly a lot of places so I don’t believe my carbon footprint can ever be erased, but we can all make small changes to help the planet!

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