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January 11, 2010 / ebretzel

Reduce, Reuse, FUSE

I’m so sick of seeing plastic bags everywhere. Do we really need them? How hard is it to bring some bags with you, or carry your one or two small items from the store to the car? It seems like it’s pretty hard. Reusable shopping bags have just started to become trendy here the past couple of years, but even though I see them on racks at nearly every store I see very few people actually using them. It’s no wonder when very few stores offer an incentive to bring your own bags (Target and Rainbow just started to give 5 cents off per bag very recently). Cashiers and customers alike are on autopilot. Scan item. Toss in bag. Carry home. Throw out. Just like robots.

Even though I try hard not to, I still find myself accumulating these nasty little bags. For example, the other day I went to Walgreens to buy several cards. As the cashier started to ring them up I said (in a loud, clear voice) “No bag please, I will carry them out.” The cashier said “OK” and then proceeded to stuff them in a bag and hand them to me before I could protest. Why didn’t I just take them out of the bag and hand it back? Oh, I have tried this my friend. Nine times out of 10 they take the used-for-one-second back and throw it straight into the garbage. No one customer wants to take their brand new things home in a slightly crinkled bag, do they?

Well I have 3 solutions to the plastic bag epidemic (excluding the obvious solution of bringing your own):

1. Bring your used plastic bags back to the store to recycle. Throw them in the bin and rest assured that they will be remade into something useful. I’m not sure exactly what they do with them, I think they make them into condensed plastic bricks.

2. Cut them up into plarn and make something. Yes, plarn. Plarn is “plastic yarn.” I made a plarn bag once. It’s time consuming and you have to know how to crochet. I learned how to crochet as I made my bag which was probably not the greatest way to learn, but now I have this. I lovingly call it Frankenbag, or my Bag bag. People love it and think I should sell it, but most don’t realize that it took me 40 hours to complete. I would have to charge them $200 to make it worth my while!

3. Fuse them together and make something. And so I finally come to the purpose of my post. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while but haven’t quite gotten motivated until this weekend. It’s super easy and you don’t need to learn any special skills… unless you can’t iron or sew in a straight line. Basically you layer together 7-8 pieces of plastic bags in between parchment paper and then iron them on medium high until they melt together into a wrinkly, thick piece of plastic. Easy.

I got together with some friends this weekend to experiment with fusing, and we had a great time. It took a little while to get the hang of it because some bags definitely stuck together better than others (Cub bags were not good) but the results were pretty cool. We did discover through trial-and-error that bags on the bottom of the pile were flatter and those on top, directly under the iron, turned out wrinklier.

I made a pattern of red plastic leaves on white, an ended up with this lunch bag – held together with velcro:

There are tutorials all over the internet, if you want to do this yourself. In no time you could have an arsenal of reusable, recycled, fused tote bags to carry your groceries home in. If you want to be super-recycle-person you can do this with bags that food come in such as frozen peas. Since I theoretically will not be using plastic bags anymore (unless forced) that is going to be my next move. We’ll see how that turns out and maybe I’ll do a follow-up post later.

Cheers and happy recycling!




Leave a Comment
  1. Becca / Feb 9 2010 4:43 pm

    AWESOME. Lovin’ the New World bag. NZ represent! And even thought I ALSO hate plastic bags, I do sometimes forget to shove my reusable grocery bag in my ordinary book bag. Guilty.

    In other words, you forgot to mention that plastic bags make awesome packaging materials for shipping overseas parcels. Lightweight, yet they protect your most precious gifts.

    P.S. wow, you’ve been blogging heaps lately. I’m totally impressed. And shamed, by my utter fall off the face of the blogniverse.

    • ebretzel / Feb 9 2010 10:56 pm

      Ha, yeah notice that I stopped blogging once I started coaching synchro again. :P

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