Single-use plastic produce bags are a great example of ridiculous and completely unnecessary plastic.
You can purchase reusable produce bags but you don't actually need to. This post will give you 14 ways to avoid single-use without spending any money at all.
People still use a huge amount of plastic bags despite bag bans around the world.
Look around your local supermarket and you'll still see plenty of plastic bags.
At the checkout you may even be asked by the cashier if you want extra plastic produce bags to cover food like meat or laundry items (which are already laden with plastic).
Reusable produce bags are super simple that makes a difference to your impact on the environment.
If you are going to purchase a set of produce bags please do make sure they are made from natural fibres and made locally. (But I strongly encourage you to test out some free options first)
The MOST sustainable (and cheapest) alternative to any item is to reuse or re-pupurpose things you already have.
So, let's get started on how you can stop using disposable produce bags!
These are in no particular order, and each has their own pros and cons when it comes to the environment.
1. Reuse Plastic Produce Bags You Already Have
Ok, this may sound a little obvious but you would be surprised how many people don't reuse them.
You may feel a little judged by those going plastic-free but those bags can be reused many times over and should be!
Whether it is produce bags or just plastic shopping bags, keep reusing these for as long as you can BEFORE recycling.
Some days I see piles of brand new looking plastic bags dumped at the Redcycle bin and it makes me sad to think people didn't even bother to get as much life out of them as they could before disposing of them.
Recycling can make us feel we are doing something positive but it really should be a last resort.
2. Paper Bags
Pretty much EVERY supermarket has paper bags available in the produce aisle.
(Hint: look for the mushroom bags)
They are a great backup to avoid single-use plastic if you have forgotten to bring an alternative.
I know there is a lot of debate about paper bags being worse for the environment than plastic but that is a load of rubbish. Those studies are usually funded by plastic manufacturers.
Paper will biodegrade naturally, wont create huge pollution problems or damage to marine life the way plastic does.
Biobags are naturally compostable bags made from plant based starch (not plastic). They can be used for fresh produce and many people use them for meat, breads and other food items.
Please Be VERY wary of labels!
Look for PLASTIC-FREE not bioplastic and DO read the fine print on bags labelled as Eco-Friendly or Green.
The last thing you want is to be tricked into degradable bags that break down into millions of tiny pieces of plastic
Many councils provide Biobags free as part of their curbside organic waste program. Recently, I have seen social media posts of supermarkets that are beginning to switch to these as produce bags.
4. Re-purpose Old Pillow Cases
Pillow cases make fabulous plastic-free alternatives to produce bags.
They are big, sturdy and most people already have a few spare. (if not, ask around or hit the op-shops where you can usually buy them with loose change)
Pillow cases are especially handy for large and heavy produce like potatoes, watermelon, pumpkin, juicing carrots and all sorts of fresh produce.
They are also easy to wash and very lightweight (and if you like to sew, you can add a drawstring)
5. Use a Cardboard Box
Back in the not so distant past, people would select their fruit and veg, and pack it into a box.
Some shops will have a pile of emptied packaging boxes you can choose from. If not, just ask if they can give you one from out the back.
These will be destined for recycling or landfill so why not put them to good use.
6. Re-Use Bulk Bags
Rice, flour and other bulk foods generally come in sturdy bags and are ideal for reuse.
I particularly like the 5kg rice bags as they are fabric with handles and a zipper. This makes them great for fresh produce as well as bulk foods at my local zero waste stores.
(Avoid those dry pet food bags, in my experience the smell is impossible to get rid of! I use these to collect my soft plastics for recycling)
7. Shopping Bags
Light weight bags, totes and string market bags can hold our shopping so why not our veggies?
Avoid heavy carry bags for items that need to be weighed as the extra weight will mean extra dollars on the bill.
8. Go Nude
This is the BEST option! (and my personal favourite)
Providing you aren't buying something small like grapes (which DO fall through the trolley, believe me) then just keep your produce nude and unbagged.
If you're worried about germs?
Wellllll.....honestly, think about all the people that have already touched that apple or pear with dirty hands, or consider the pesticide residue or artificial wax that has been added to the outside.
Always wash your produce before eating and there's no need to even think about potential germs on the trolley or carry basket.
9. BYO Basket
There is something satisfying about bringing your own basket to shop with.
For some reason, it always makes me choose more colourful produce, so I end up with a healthier variety of food.
Once the items are rung up, pop them back into your basket and straight into the boot of the car.
10. Make a No-Sew Bag
If you follow the blog you might be tired of me yapping on about t-shirt bags but they are super simple to make and prevent your favourite old t-shirts heading to landfill.
No sewing or special skills required and it takes about 5 or 10 minutes to do.
Here are the full instructions.
11. Re-purpose Bread bags
If you ever buy bread in plastic bags, try reusing them to replace plastic produce bags.
They can be rinsed out and hung to dry and used to replace other plastic bags you may be using in the kitchen.
12. Laundry bags
If you have had fabric laundry bags pushed on you when buying clothing and wonder why you ended up with so many, don't sweat.
Wash bags can totally be used when purchasing fruit and veg.
13. Fabric Wrap
Furoshiki wrapping is Japanese art of using a square piece of fabric to wrap items of all shapes and sizes.
Many people use this for wrapping gifts but did you know you can create a makeshift produce carry bag on the fly.
You can fold these ahead of time, rather than attempting it at the shop.
14. Reuse Containers
Fresh produce doesn't have to be put into bags, light weight containers can be a handy alternative.
This is a great way to reuse takeaway containers, ice-cream tubs or other packaging rather than recycling.
This swap works great for things like mushrooms, medjool dates, berries, kiwi fruit, garlic, ginger, and can offer some protection against bruising.
Want to do more?
>Why not ASK your local store to make a permanent switch to a plastic free alternative like biobags or paper bags
>Encourage other members of your household, friends and family to REFUSE plastic produce bags
>SHARE this post so the world has less reasons to use unnecessary plastic
Let's make our world have a little less plastic