I just found this cute site that shows you how to turn old plastic bags into knitted and crocheted items. Since there are already tons of plastic bags out there, I think finding a way to reuse them (before they get recycled, or shot into space because plastic is terrible, or whatever) is a fantastic idea. I might actually make some plarn and then get to crocheting bags myself, since we have so many from Shane. Or maybe I'll make a front door mat, since we don't have one of those. I wonder what else could be made? Any suggestions?
If crocheting and knitting plastic bags together isn't your idea of a great time, there are other plastic things that you can reuse and repurpose rather than recycling. Like plastic bottles. I admit, some of the ideas in this slideshow are kind of stupid. (Did you see that bracelet? Did you? U-G-L-Y.) But it also has some really great ideas. I'll have to look at it again, next time I find myself scratching my head over how I got a plastic water bottle and wondering what to do with it.
I have been starting to save for reuse our milk jugs. Actually, I've made Shane cut the bottoms off so that they can be set to two different purposes: the bottoms will be plant holders (what's the point in buying more plastic, just to set it under my plants?) and the tops will be mini-greenhouses for my fragile garden starts. I won't have to worry about sudden frosts and mid-summer temperature dips. (After the last winter I remember that was this harsh, it snowed in June! It didn't stick, but that could kill any sensitive plants.) If you don't garden but still want to re-use old milk jugs, there are also these ideas. Personally, I've already used my ones set aside as funnels sometimes. They work great for pouring flour or sugar from my shopping bags into my containers at home.
Another big source of waste which most people don't think about are the old clothes we throw away. We might donate the good clothes we no longer wear, but what about the rest? Well, we can actually get them recycled. And not just clothes, either, but shoes too. For our old, worn-out clothes I've had a policy of turning them into rags before throwing them away. Things with stains which I won't donate, or items with holes in them, get torn up into rags and used to clean the house (in place of sponges and paper towels) or used as pet rags. Same goes for old towels, or ones that we've found. (We looked under the cushions of our free couch about a year after getting it and discovered two hand towels and a pillow case.) I doubt I'd even want to recycle what they're reduced to by the time I throw those out. (Either they have some kind of serious grease on them--like from the truck--or they're absolutely disgusting from some kind of pet mess disaster. Remember when the dog ate an entire pan of gingerbread? The cleanup from that was not pretty, and that rag got thrown out.) For items that won't work so well for rags, I can always find someone else to give them to. Old denim goes to a friend who uses them for either UAF theater shows or for her personal crafting projects. Almost any type of fabric can be turned into a beautiful quilt in the hands of the right person. (I am not one of them, but I'd love to learn....) Or they can be torn up and made into beautiful rag rugs. I remember my grandmother making these when I was a child and they've always had a special place in my heart. (Or there's this version. Or this one.) There are so many ways to donate, reuse, or recycle clothing that I honestly don't know how so much of it gets thrown away every year. By one the textile site's estimate, an average of 70lbs per person per year! That's a lot of clothes. (But now we know how people end up spending approximately $1000 on clothes every year!) It almost makes me want to go for a minimalist wardrobe. (But not quite--it's not exactly feasible around here with a nearly 150 degree temperature swing every year! Maybe 10 pieces for each season?)
If anyone has suggestions for other "waste" that can be reused or repurposed, I'd love to hear them.