5 Unusual Uses for Plastic Bags

Not all plastic bags have such clearly defined uses.
Not all plastic bags have such clearly defined uses.
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Even if you don't love to shop, you have to hit up a store every now and then for something. An inevitable side effect of shopping is the accumulation of plastic bags of all shapes and sizes. Pantries, closets and junk drawers everywhere are overflowing with them. Many of us don't like to toss them out; it seems like a terrible waste to simply send them off to a landfill.

Trillions of plastic bags made from sources such as natural gas or crude oil are produced each year. The United States alone creates and uses more than 100 billion of them per year, a measly 0.6 percent of which are recycled [source: World Watch Institute]. Plastic bags can take as long as 1,000 years to decompose and are a serious health risk to marine animals and other wildlife that ingest them accidentally [source: Reuters]. As a result, many big box retailers are taking measures to reduce their plastic bag consumption.

In the meantime, there are countless ways that this environmentally unfriendly -- but often very handy -- receptacle can be reused. Some of the easiest reuses for plastic bags are obvious. For example, they're excellent vessels for diaper disposal or taking a lunch to work (just make sure not to mix the two up). HowStuffWorks.com has put together a list of clever, less well-known ways to repurpose this common household item.