How can I reuse or recycle plastic shipping/mailing bags?

Kayci has emailed:

First off, I absolutely love your website and all the nifty and creative ideas your community finds.

Now for a confession: I am a bookworm. I typically go through 100+ novels a year without breaking a sweat. In an effort to try and green up my hobbies I’ve stopped going to the used bookstore as often, as it is a twenty mile drive, and when I do go I always buy in bulk. I’ve also switched from Amazon to They’re consistently cheaper, and they reward you for buying used books out of the same location.

My problem? Amazon always uses boxes, even if it was three or four of them per order. My new website sends my books in one large plastic bag (picture enclosed) that is numberless as far as recycling is concerned. The bags in question (I’ve amassed six so far) are 12×16 inches and have some minor holes from the shipping process. The texture of the bag isn’t conducive to making it into plarn, as it stretches out very easily. Any other ideas?

Hi fellow bookworm :)

The first thing you should do is email thriftbooks and explain your problem – they might not take action and change to cardboard (or similar) straightaway but the more people who complain about it, the more likely they are to change at some point — so join that chorus.

If they’re in good condition, and have been opened neatly with scissors, they can be reused for their original purpose – as a slightly smaller mailing sack next time you need to send something out. Unless you send a lot of things though, they may quickly mount up.

When we get those type of bags (and actually there is one on my desk right now that needs reusing!), we tend to use them as bin liners – obviously holey ones aren’t going to be good for small/wet rubbish but they’re fine in most circumstances.

That’s not terrible creative though – any other ideas?

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12 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle plastic shipping/mailing bags?”

  1. Stephanie says:

    According to the Thriftbooks website, you can recycle the bags in the same grocery store bins for plastic shopping bags.

  2. anna says:

    I use those book plastic bags for their original purpose a second time: shipping books.
    If you don’t ship books yourself, find some local bookcrossers that need them. Or even better, join bookcrossing and swap some of your books with someone who likes the same type of literature you do and who has some titles of your interest available.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I use mine in the same way as Anna: to swap or offer books to someone who has them on their wishlists using and

    Using these two websites also means I’ve cut down on my buying books, but not on reading as I usually get another book for each that I send out (when swapping) or more (when fellow bookcrossers send me books I have on my wishlist). For the price of the shipping costs only – and reusing both books and those bags or anything else I can use to send books if I run short of mailing bags (have used wallpaper in the past, was good too!).

    Have always had things to send by post so never really thought about what else they could be used for but I wonder if they could be used to keep plant bulbs in the winter (you may need to make a few holes so they don’t rot? not an expert in that field, thinking of anything that needs to be kept in a dark place?)

  4. wongworks says:

    Would they be suitable as garden pots for growing say herbs in?

    They would look quite modern being shiny white plastic. I suppose it depends on how they stand up to the sun

  5. SMW3 says:

    I love using packaging like this, foam peanuts, and plastic bags of all types for restuffing my classroom beanbag chairs. It is a win-win situation – my chairs are stuffed, can’t leak these larger items, and the stuffing stays out of the landfills.

  6. Christina P says:

    I was thinking these would be nice to use as waterproof liners in purses and bags if you know how to make those. I don’t know why you couldn’t use a decoupage glue on this then cover with fabric to make small purses, close with velcro. Or make hardbook covers and you could decoupage them with fancy paper or fabric to give it some flare. Or nothing and let people write on them.

  7. bookstorebabe says:

    A baby bib, layered in between terry cloth (or a towel?) Any plastic for this, plastic to keep the wet mess from soaking the clothes, terry to feel nice against the skin on one side, and absorb mess on the other.
    can it be cut in to strips an woven? Can it be fused using heat like making plastic bag fabric? But yeah, I’d line trash cans and such.
    Oh-lay them on the ground for a while to smother weeds, with something on top for a bit of weight?

  8. neko says:

    If they don’t have holes (or only small ones) that you can use them for your umbrella. That way you can pack away your umbrella and keep your bag dry. Or water bottles or flasks. Nothing is worse than having a leaking bottle in your bag >.<
    They are absolutely brilliant as grow bags. Especially if they have holes in them. Just fill them up with earth, seal the side, put more holes on one side for water drainage and cut crosses on the other side. There you put your seeds in. And thats it :D

  9. Roger says:

    Have you considered a kindle? I know adding an electrical device to the equation wouldn’t really help, but the packaging for a kindle is minimal, the battery lasts for days and new books are cheaper than paperkind. You can also download free classics which as a student myself comes in handy.

  10. AngelTreehugger says:

    I’m a student and I always reuse them for filing purposes. I never need to buy folders anymore since all of my test papers, exams and handouts are in those bags. I have a bag for each subject I take, so it makes organizing really easy. :)

  11. Melinda says:

    The instuctions for making a wallet from a coffee bag would apply to this material, and it would be a good, rugged wallet, too.

  12. Clarissa says:

    In the US, Tyvek envelopes can be sent back to the company to be recycled. For more information:

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