Fresh Tips for Reusing Plastic

Mugs made from recycled plastic

We asked our readers to share their favorite tips and tricks for reusing their plastics. Here’s what they had to say.

1. I use the bags that bread comes in to clean up after the dog. – Leslie Colson Tucker

2. Instead of buying gift bags or wrapping paper, I buy reusable plastic or fabric bags from retailers. They’re usually cheaper and several recipients have commented that they now take theirs shopping with them. – Cari DeMull

3. I use the really huge bottles of pretzels, snacks to hold bulky garage type stuff, like really tangled string or rope and leftover renovation type items like painters tape or springs from curtain rods…random stuff that I will find a use for someday! – Natasha Skertich

4. Turn yoga mats into wall decals! Simply find a stencil you like online, trace, cut and you’re done! See the project here. – Jennifer Berry (Earth911 staffer)

5. We use the bread bags and cereal bags, pasta bags and every kind of bag imaginable to clean the litter box. – Robyn Cooper

6. I use my yogurt containers for planters. Pop a few holes in the bottom and they work great. – Liz Marchio

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

7. I use plastic shopping bags (when I do get them) as my bathroom trash liners….why buy them when these bags fit just right? – Denise Scoville

8. A cool use for plastic bottle caps? Collect a bunch from your family, friends and neighbors to make an abacus. It takes a little handiwork, but the outcome is definitely worth it. Now you just have learn how to use it. See the project here. – Larry Cummings (Earth911 staffer)

9. Empty babywipes containers are handy for organizing sock drawers, especially for kids (of course this is after refilling/reusing the containers so many times the lids fall apart!). – Tiffany Tremblay Duval

10. You can crochet some cool bags and baskets out of plastic bags: Cut the bags into strips and use like yarn. If you sort out the colors, it gets really cool (black bags with neon ones, etc.). I have seen the bags, and plan to make some and teach kids at my school. – Christine G. Perry

11. We recycled plastic drink cups for starting plants from seed for the garden. A hot nail or woodburning tool makes it easy to poke drainage holes. They worked so well we’re saving them for next year. – John Steves

12. The plastic bags from cereal boxes make great storage bags for other foods. Just empty them, pull them out of the box and fold them for future use. The boxes are recyclable. – John Steves

13. We got some nice 5-gallon pails with lids from a bakery. They buy frozen eggs, frosting, fruit fillings in them. We’re poking a hole in the bottom and using them for planting upside down tomatoes and squash. – Good Green Guru

14. Use a plastic bag, string, tape and sticks to make a real kite. This is a fun summer experiment for the kids. See the full project here. – Tony Ash (Earth911 staffer)

15. Those plastic 2-pound coffee containers with snap-on lids make great reusable kitchen compost holders for coffee grounds, vegetable trimmings, etc. until you can empty them to the compost bin outdoors. – Good Green Guru

16. We get kitty litter containers from a cousin. They have tons of uses but my favorite is this: Drill a small hole in the bottom and use as a soaker for plants that like a good, long soaking. Another without the hole sits in our shower and collects many gallons of water to be carried out to fill the soaker or to water other plants. Sometimes, we use this collected water to “flush” the nearby toilet. – Linda Scott Sanders

This entire ensemble is made from plastic bags. Image courtesy of Mary Anne Enriquez

This entire ensemble is made from plastic bags. Image courtesy of Mary Anne Enriquez

17. Cut the top off of a milk jug or plastic coffee container. Now you have a holder for your kitchen sponges and scrubbers. If you poke a bunch of holes in the bottom with a ice pick you will have a makeshift colander idea for a starter home or camping. – Jeanne Lindsay

18. A discarded 2 1/2 gallon water container, the kind with a spigot, can be made into a shower by cutting a hole in the top to fill. Then you use the spigot as the shower head. It’s cool because you can turn it off while you lather up, turn on to rinse. A friend came up with this when we forgot our solar shower. – Linda Scott Sanders

19. Use CD cases, a little glue and foliage from your backyard to make a cool bird feeder for summer. See the project here. – Matt Sailing (Earth911 staffer)

20. You can also use those cereal box liners to grease or butter a pan. It saves a paper towel. Just make sure tap the remaining crumbs out first. – Jeanne Lindsay

21. We use yogurt containers to hold paint for my kid’s art activities. – Andreth Paglinawan

22. Cool Whip containers become paint holders when we paint the outside of our house. A Tidy Cat container sits on our deck for compost items. The lid keeps it smell-free, and when it’s full we empty it in the composter. The microwave containers that hold Lean Cuisine and Smart Ones entrees are great for reusing in the microwave for leftovers, especially tomato-based items. Or for using for the kids for lunches since they eat such small portions. – Gail Ray Johnson

23. Use an empty laundry detergent bottle and PVC pipe to make a lacrosse stick. See the project here. – Stacy Boehme (Earth911 staffer)

24. I save old plastic containers and fill them with recycled paper cut up into small squares for notes. I give these to my favorite people and make the world just a little greener :) – Maria Gomez-Greenberg

25. Use plastic drink straws and CD cases to make a cool lamp shade. See the project here. – Matthew Kohlbeck (Earth911 staffer)

Related articles
Awesome DIY Reuse Ideas
Fun Crafts With Used Plastic

Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. The American Chemistry Council is one of these partners.

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  1. We use the baby wipe containers to hold crayons, markers, hair clips/pony tails, etc. Or to organize small bathroom stuff. Plus they are easy to travel with. We reuse the plastic store bags for litter, dog droppings, and small trash bags. Also use yougurt cups for planters from seeds, or for painting. I use the coffee cans and milk jugs to collect the grease from cooking instead of it going down the drain. I use litter pails to store all our larger craft items/and also to hold all my cleaning supplies for each part of the house.

  2. So many people’s suggestions have to do with people finding ways to briefly delay the plastic bag’s trip to the landfill. Has anyone thought about what happens when you put dog poop in a plastic bag, seal it up and put it in the garbage? If plastic lasts forever, then this just makes a situation where your dogs poop will last forever.

    I imagine 100 years from now, we are going to have this massive supply of buried, preserved poop, more than we will ever know what to do with. I don’t think finding new and worse ways to throw out plastic bags is a good thing. How about actually recycling them???

  3. I definitely think that we should find better ways to recycle! I think reusing the baby wipes is a great way to keep things out of the land fill, but even reusing plastic bags, they will eventually get to a landfill.

    I would like to add that another way to continue the recycling trend is to purchase items that are made out of recycled materials! There are plenty of great web sites that sell them, but by far my favorite is

    This site has a user friendly online store with a complete line of eco-safe products that they sell at competitive prices… which definitely make for an enjoyable shopping experience. The site also features plenty of information, including a blog that shares tips and up to date information about issues and events in the Green community. I really think that this site will eventually become a household name and community for those looking to forward their efforts to “Live off the Grid”! I hope you enjoy the site just as much as I have!

    Go Green!
    Sabrina Ahmed

  4. I use the soda bottle lids for holding glue and/or paint for when my daughter is making an art project.

  5. i never buy trash bags i use bread bags potato chip bags any bag that holds food or something as trash bags. and i never take grocery bags from the store i use a cloth bag or those bags made from bottles from whole foods or nothing at all. if i have to take a grocery bag from the store i use it for trash. this results in more trips to the trash but you get used to it.

  6. Instead of rapping gifts in paper I use fabric,I have worked in alot of fabric stores.I use my stash,My
    kids give them back so I can use them next year and sometimes the items are big or odd shape
    I can make them to fit the item and we have no waste.

  7. Regarding number 22 – you should be very careful when reusing plastic containers from frozen meals, especially in the microwave. Most of these are designed to be only microwaved once, and additional uses can cause the plastic to break down and release toxins into the food. Between heating and absorption, microwaving liquids in them can be particularly bad. Better to reuse as a container for portions of bulk meals that you want to freeze.

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