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Organizing Plastic Bags

Though they can be reused in a number of ways -- to line small wastebaskets, for example -- bags from supermarkets have a way of piling up in an unwieldy mass.

One solution is to store them in large empty tissue boxes, folding them neatly ahead of time; when you need a bag, simply pull one out. You can also buy inexpensive organizers for bags; many plastic versions are similar to a large tissue box -- a good choice if you have space under the sink. Also available are long cloth tubes that are cinched at the bottom and can be hung for easy dispensing -- this option is helpful if you have space on a kitchen wall or inside the pantry to place the tube.

Although these ideas will keep plastic bags tidy, the best way to deal with an overabundance is to avoid bringing home so many in the first place. Consider buying several large, inexpensive fabric totes, and keep them in the trunk of your car so you can use them instead for groceries. Or keep the bags to a minimum by recycling them from time to time. Many supermarkets have in-store bins to collect your unwanted bags.

Comments (73)

  • beckj28 9 Jan, 2009

    i use a plastic coffee can with a bout a 1-1/2 inch [filtered word] cut in the lid. I can crunch tons of bags into it and it fits nicely under the kitchen sink. The bags pop out like tissues.

  • sahbarr 25 Nov, 2008

    We use them for our disabled son's incontinence needs! We sotre themin a mesh pop up laundry basket! Works wonderful and they are all in one place when we need them!

  • cmenglish 16 Nov, 2008

    i cut a small [filtered word] into the side of a clean 4 litre milk jug and stuff the bags inside. Once this is full I take the rest of the bags to the public library. They can never have too many

  • Sandyandy 16 Nov, 2008

    As I started reading this, I thought of the car. I have been oudoors and many of times was caught short, Not ever again,.I just need to remember to keep it full

  • carrieLMTmidmo 16 Nov, 2008

    I've found a fun and interesting way to reuse the plastic bags, cut them in one long circular strip (like an apple peel) and you can make a yarn out of it to make more durable bags, outside door mats, seat covers, all kinds of stuff. It is even more durable if you put the completed project between two sheets of wax paper and iron the plastic to itself. I've made many bags now and use those for my shopping, you gets lots of "oh, neats!" with this bag!!

  • Urbis 14 Nov, 2008

    I store my bags in one of the plastic bags in the pantry. Before I store them, I hold them at the bottom of the plastic bag and run my hands down the bag to push all the air out. I then wrap it around my two fingers (so it creates a little circle) and then tuck the end in the middle of the circle. It holds it in a sort of knot. I then put 5-10 of them in the bottom of every small trashcan in the house so when I take out the trash, I always have another in the bottom of the can to use.

  • jonescasa 14 Nov, 2008

    We use them to line the bathroom trash cans and separate aluminum cans from plastic and paper in the recycling bin. I have an empty fridge pack Diet Coke cardboard carton under the sink. We just stuff them in there, and grab one when needed :)

  • adelenne 14 Nov, 2008

    I fold my plastic bags into little triangles: First fold into half lengthwise, then fold this half into another half so you have a long strip. At the bottom of this strip, fold a triangle using one corner and continue folding this triangle upwards this strip towards till almost at the end where the handles of the plastic bag are. Neatly tuck the handles into the last fold. It's really easy if you can do this. I store these in the long cloth bags with the elastic at the bottom so I can easily pull out one when I need it.

  • AuraLee 13 Nov, 2008

    I try to remember my cloth bags for the store. When my husband or I forget we place the clean plastic bags in a large plastic garbage container and use for garage sales or the recycle bin at the grocery store. Amazing how we collect so many bags?

  • AuraLee 13 Nov, 2008

    I have a 30 gallon plastic garbage container that I place any of the plastic bags into. All clean of course. When it is full I stuff a few bags and take them to the recyle bin. Also we do several garage sales each year and these bags come in handy for the sale too.

  • Buonopane 12 Nov, 2008

    I fold the plastic bag in half (the long way) and I roll it from the bottom up. Then I roll each plastic bag over the first, one at a time. It takes very little time, very little space and it's very neat.

  • Susan1255 12 Nov, 2008

    I have a friend who owns a small shop. I normally use fabric totes for my groceries, but if I do bring home plastic bags, I save them for him to use in his shop. That way the bags are recycled and it saves him money too.

  • Hainesy 12 Nov, 2008

    Roving Spinner - that's sounds a good idea. Can you tell me where I can get more information about crocheting rugs?

  • Nipplesofvenus 12 Nov, 2008

    With all my passion I forgot to mention my helpful hint: Old, original solution. Made a cloth tube, open with elastic at both ends, for stuffing plastic bags into one end only. Ribbon loop on one end to hang on doorknob. Fits under sink as well. Used attractive scrap material.

  • Nipplesofvenus 12 Nov, 2008

    I would much rather bring home plastic grocery bags and line our wastebaskets with them, reusing them, than purchase a box of plastic bags to do the same thing. Some wastebaskets just need a plastic liner. Sometimes I choose paper bags for my groceries to use as our recycle receptacle in the kitchen and as the liner for our shredder. Tried it without a bag. Shredding all over the street! It's better to reuse than to purchase yet more.

  • silkyb 12 Nov, 2008

    The best way to store plastic bags is - don't get them!!! I reuse canvas bags for my groceries and have a large bin for my produce, that way I am not contributing to the problem!!

  • nanotech 12 Nov, 2008

    We use saved paper towel cores and stuff them in there and put them in a box on a shelf to use as needed. We also use our own bags at the grocery store to cut down on using plastic bags.

  • Ayecee 12 Nov, 2008

    I have one of those automatic cat litter boxes. The disposable bins are pretty pricey, so I line them with bags and then dispose of it easily. They fit the bins perfectly.

  • MelissaGrace 12 Nov, 2008

    I save my bags and then reuse them during our school book fair to bag purchases. Saves an expense so more money goes back to the library.

  • Giggy3 12 Nov, 2008

    A few years ago I was shopping and I saw the long tube like cloth holders for the plastic bags and I thought I can make them. So I bought some dish towels and away I went to the sewing maching and gave them out to friends and family for Christmas presents. Their friends saw them and wanted me to make more for them...I did.

  • CraftyLadyTOO 12 Nov, 2008

    I don't understand why they don't make these bags "recyclable" in the first place. It would save a host of problems.

  • CraftyLadyTOO 12 Nov, 2008

    I don't understand why they don't make these bags "recyclable" in the first place. It would save a host of problems.

  • chinster 12 Nov, 2008

    The long plastic bags used for home delivery of newspapers can be used to hold wet umbrellas. I tie an empty bag to my dry umbrella's handle (or keep a bag in my handbag) and when the umbrella gets wet I put it into the plastic bag. This prevents water from dripping in my tote/handbag, on the floor, or in the car.

  • MarthaMaven 12 Nov, 2008

    All previous posts were interesting! I have several (many) reusable bags that I keep in the car. However, I often forget to take them into the store with me. When this happens I have the checker put the groceries back into the cart then take them out to the car and offload into my bags. The few plastic bags that I get are used for cleaning the catbox. The long bags that cover the newspaper are used for dog walks, their long shape makes it easy to insert your hand and pick up the dog droppings.

  • elroy1958 11 Nov, 2008

    A lot of schools also ask the children if they have extra plastic bags at home to bring them to the school and the school can save them and get credit for things to buy for their school. My kids love to do this.

  • GoodMorningGlory 11 Nov, 2008

    Here is the link to use for making your own bags using T-shirts: shopping bags

  • tess_of_st_paul 11 Nov, 2008

    annetterenken - I would like to a see a pattern and some suggested materials for constructing a reusable shopping bag . . . .?

    You should be able to find a pattern at your local fabric store (like a JoAnn's). I think the pattern I used was a Simplicity pattern. Make sure the pattern you pick has a separate bottom or the bag will be too narrow to carry groceries. Use a heavy-weight fabric like denim ro upholstery fabric.

  • StylieD 11 Nov, 2008

    Alabaxter, could you give us a little more information? Name of group handling this effort?

  • CertainlySusan 11 Nov, 2008

    I live in an area in which people are really making the effort to use fewer bags and businesses are appreciating the savings. While I do use plastic bags for used cat litter, I have fewer of them as I now have several totes.

  • Alabaxter 11 Nov, 2008

    I fold ours up and put them in the bottom of all our waste baskets to make taking trash out easier - no matter what yucky stuff goes in them.
    The other thing you can do - and this is for non-profits - you can braid them into throw rugs for dirt floors in villages in Mexico. We taught ladies to do this - it cleaned up the fences and protected their floors.

  • rjam 11 Nov, 2008

    I fold mine and use an extra napkin holder for the bags.

  • AnitaLA 11 Nov, 2008

    The local food and clothing pantry takes paper and plastic bags to use for their clients. I found the comment about plastic bags recycling as #2 plastic interesting. The recycling spots that I use do not accept them as such.

  • patiencehcmason 11 Nov, 2008

    I keep mine folded in tissue boxes, and eventually if I get too many, I take them to the farm stand where I get fresh vegetables. They are happy to get them. One day I told them I didn't want a plastic bag for something because I would have to fold it when I got home, and they said, "Oh! You're the one!" Cracked me up.

  • dtwesq 11 Nov, 2008

    Even though I use cloth bags whenever possible, the plastic ones still accumulate. My local day care center loves to receive them. They need the bags for sending home soiled clothes, especially infants'.

  • yobana 11 Nov, 2008

    How about just don't use them. I decided to make my house plastic bag free. We've done a good job for about a year and a half now. We use cloth bags only and if we accidentally forget the bags at the house, we carry the stuff out without bags. For our doing, my six-year old son has become more aware of ways where we can help out our planet.

  • LaBayou2000 11 Nov, 2008

    Save old worned out plastic bags for packing mailing packages to mail them lightly for the holidays or shipping them anytime.

  • rcfiorman 11 Nov, 2008

    Take them to the discount grocers who don't provide bags or charge for them, such as Sav-A-Lot.

  • MrsFloyd 11 Nov, 2008

    My idea is an old one, from Martha Stewart many years ago!! Store folded plastic bags in the tubes from giftwrap paper. Also put several in an aluminum foil tube to keep handy in the kitchen.

  • aliceskier 11 Nov, 2008

    Day care centers and Montessori schools welcome used plastic bags for sending home soiled clothes. I shake them out and roll from the bottom and compress them into another bag to collect them. I hang the bag on an out-of-the-way door knob.

  • Sherylc 11 Nov, 2008

    I store plastic bags in a gallon milk jug....Just wash well let dry well say over night cut a round circle in the side just large enough to stuff bags in and pull them out as sits under the bathroom sink in the laundry room or pantry...recycle many items at once...

  • Sherylc 11 Nov, 2008

    I store plastic bags in a gallon milk jug....Just wash well let dry well say over night cut a round circle in the side just large enough to stuff bags in and pull them out as sits under the bathroom sink in the laundry room or pantry...recycle many items at once...

  • lindacabler 11 Nov, 2008

    Why not stitch a dish cloth together to form a sleeve. Add elastic to the bottom edge leaving it loose enogh to pull a bag through. Had it by a ribbon anywhere you wish. Dishclothes come in themes such as Christmas decorated ones to add to your festivities.

  • jillmurtagh 11 Nov, 2008

    Just ask for paper bags for your groceries - they can be used for craft projects, and are completely recyclable. We place our old newspapers into paper bags, then haul the whole package to the recycle drop-off station.

  • Raphaelson 11 Nov, 2008

    Another way to store plastic bags is in the cardboard tubes of paper towels.

  • marinena 11 Nov, 2008

    I love MISuzanne Idea! Thank you!

  • MISuzanne 11 Nov, 2008

    We use the plastic tubs my childrens' Huggies wipes came in so I transfer the bags in there. When I need one, I just fiip the lid and have a bag right away! I even keep another plastic tub in the garage to make sure I use them. Our community, thank goodnenss, now takes them and recycles them. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to remember to bring them with me although I bought those awesome bags from Target --now it's just me having to remember to bring them in the store!

  • annetterenken 11 Nov, 2008

    I would like to a see a pattern and some suggested materials for constructing a reusable shopping bag (instead of buying one). What would be the best durable fabric to use, or would it be fabric at all?

  • pattycake1217 11 Nov, 2008

    Just say "No".

  • sunshinezena 11 Nov, 2008

    Check with your public school system. My children's school recyles the bags.

  • ScottandLydia 11 Nov, 2008

    I am glad to see that both capitalists and socialist can agree on plastic bag recycling . . . the methods are different, but result the same. Good lesson for us to focus on the end results and have flexibility when we propose solutions . . . great job Martha readers! :-)

  • Mommakat 11 Nov, 2008

    Most of the time, I use the cloth, reusable bags that grocery stores sell. They are inexpensive and most grocery stores you use them in give you 5 cents off your grocery bill for every bag you use. Eventually, the cloth bags pay for themselves.
    As for the plastic bags, I still need a few of those to clean out the litter box and I also use them to collect aluminum cans in my kitchen, when it's full, I tie it closed and put out another, after a while, I have enough to take to the return bins.

  • juliemon1 11 Nov, 2008

    You can also make a vow to NEVER take one home again! I am slowly weening myself off the bags and have promised myself to always have a reusable bag with me. It takes some thought beforehand but you feel better for not adding to the pile of plastic that will never be actually recycled. Re-used perhaps, but they will never go away for good.

  • Uptowne 11 Nov, 2008

    I use one bag an place all the extras in it. I have a hook on the back of my pantry door and keep it hanging there for quick access to reuse them. They are perfect for small waste cans and of course to clean out the litter box.

  • grandmatrish 11 Nov, 2008

    Our local walking trail has a PVC pipe with an opening for us to recycle our plastic bags there. Dog walkers can use them for poop bags.

  • carolyork 11 Nov, 2008

    Our church collects plastic milk bags to be cut into strips and then crocheted into mats for the poor to sleep on in disadvantaged countries. These mats are so good because the bugs do not like the plastic.

  • mainemoosie 11 Nov, 2008

    I keep them in tissue boxes and in soda "refrigerator" boxes. I reuse them: i use them for trash bags in each room, instead of buying, and when cleaning the litter box. They don't get thrown away empty! Use them for laundry bags when traveling. Use them for shoes that get wet, muddy. For wet swimsuits. So many uses!

  • ltlliz 11 Nov, 2008

    Trader Joe's gives shoppers a raffle ticket for a $25 gift card for every reused bag whether it be theirs or any other store's.

  • grumpy01 11 Nov, 2008

    I keep plastice bags in a large trash can in the shed. I give them to the food bank of the local Salvaction Army once a year. They use them for the homeless they feed. These people need these to carry their meals so they can use their hands for the hot beverage.

  • KDBee46 11 Nov, 2008

    Wow, all of your comments are better than the article. I'm printing the comments so I can try all of YOUR suggestions. :-)

  • Lynn2966 11 Nov, 2008

    Another good way is to make bag keeper out of a large dish drying towel . My grandmother made me one. She folded the towel wrong side in and sewed it up and put elastic on each end. That is a cute and decrotive way to store those bags

  • LeannaRuth 11 Nov, 2008

    Our local stores give 5 cents back per bag not used, horrah for the capitalist system1 It saves the store money, not to have to provide bags, it saves me money when I bring my odd assortment of totes, but I still have a choice of paper or plastic if I need to cover a book or line my recycle bins at home.

  • sugarego 11 Nov, 2008

    plastic grocery bags are made of #2 plastic. so if your city picks up your recycling at your doorstep and this includes plastic soda bottles, you can just put your plastic bags in the recycle bin. no need to make an extra trip to the grocery store!

  • ironside99 11 Nov, 2008

    With winter comming keep the bags to slip the childrens feet in before putting in boots, this will keep the feet dryer and slightly warmer. Also its good to keep a few around when there are dry hats gloves and scarves just place them all in the bag and hook it on the haanger with the coat no more missing pieces in the am.

  • VanderP 11 Nov, 2008

    Instead of a tissue box, I use an old garbage bag box. The cardboard is a little sturdier and it fits in my bottom kitchen drawer. I don't worry about folding the bags. I just stuff them in :-)

  • jeanie59 11 Nov, 2008

    I also use the bags as protective packaging when shipping ebay items. I put many into one bag and tie it close. I have never had anything break when using them and they are practically weightless~ saving on shipping costs!

  • BrendaValeria 11 Nov, 2008

    We use the grocery size bags to line bathroom garbage cans. I layer them one over the other (about 5 layers) so when the top one is full you just pull it out, tie it up and there is another one ready to be used.

  • aprilpepper 11 Nov, 2008

    I knot my bags (who has time to fold them?) and stuff the little ones in a tissue box, to use for dirty diapers. I knot the big ones that I use for garbage, and stuff them into the sleeve of an old shirt that I've added elastic to the ends of.

  • alibee5 11 Nov, 2008

    The best BEST idea for keeping plastic bags is a kids' cloth zippered pajama've seen them in all kinds of animal shapes...ours is a big green alligator. It folds flat as a dish towel when empty (which is pretty much never), and It stands on its own inside the pantry when fat and full of bags. When it deflates somewhat, someone is sure to comment: "The gator is hungry!", which means we need to do a major grocery shopping and "feed the gator" with fresh plastic bags. Silly but fun!

  • pastrywoman 11 Nov, 2008

    I have two they've become the clean-up bags when we're out walking. I can never have too many of them!

  • wezbo 11 Nov, 2008

    In belgium the dispersal of plastic bags has been banned (hooray for socialist government) and they will sell you sturdy totes for the equivalent of a dime or so. Even more handy are the sturdy plastic bins built along the lines of a shopping basket, but stronger. The supermarket chains also commend your use of the totes and the boxes with a penny a pop on your customer card every time you use them in their store.

  • jeanie59 11 Nov, 2008

    I also use the bags as protective packaging when shipping ebay items. I put many into one bag and tie it close. I have never had anything break when using them and they are practically weightless~ saving on shipping costs!

  • Huntgoddess218 11 Nov, 2008

    And, don't forget to recycle them at the grocery store, as Martha says.

    Also, I use them to keep books and papers dry when it's raining outside. I usually travel by bus.

  • debbieostrander 11 Nov, 2008

    I do limit plastic bags by using reusable totes. However, when I have plastic bags I use them when cleaning our cats' litter boxes. I took an empty soda refrigertor carton and covered it with matching fabric in my laundry room, and mounted it on the wall above the litter box. Now I have an attractive holder that stores quite a few bags and keeps them handy for cleaning. It also saves money on other types of bags to hold dirty litter.