Repurposing and Reusing Plastic Bags

Guest blogger Kolika Chatterjee has an article for us on fusing plastic bags. If you’ve never tried this, Kolika’s tutorial is an excellent one to follow as she explains what works and what doesn’t. Nothing better than trial and error to teach you the best techniques. Thank you Kolika!

Originally posted on Unstreamlined.

Saving Plastics to Save Mama Earth: How to Reduce, Reuse and Repurpose:

“Paper or Plastic”? When I think of hauling my groceries up to my fourth floor walk-up, I skittishly mutter “plastic” and shamefully carry back 6-10 plastic bags of groceries every 2 weeks. I was reusing them (categorized on their tensile strength) for wrapping lunch boxes, parcel fragile glassware, provide water-proofing in projects and picking up after my dog. Several months back, I came across a cute trick on Pinterest and landed on Bao’s craft page So can plastic really be used to make crafty dinner table items? Let’s try.

Plastic Bag Coasters © Kolika Chatterjee

Plastic Bag Coasters © Kolika Chatterjee

Things you need:

  • Scissors
  • Plastic bags
  • Printer paper or parchment paper
  • Household iron (hold the steam, make sure it is on “dry” )
  • Clean work surface
  • Towels

Here’s how:

Step-1-cutting-plastic-bags © Kolika Chatterjee

Step-1-cutting-plastic-bags © Kolika Chatterjee

1. Cut off the handles and bottom of the plastic bags and make it into a rectangular shape.

Step 2: Layering Plastic © Kolika Chatterjee

Step 2: Layering Plastic © Kolika Chatterjee

2. Lay a towel straight on your work table, for heat insulation (Step 2 image shows whole layout)

3. Lay a sheet of paper (I used printed paper and the results were not as good see Step 3 image below) on the towel, with printed face down.

4. Lay 3-4 sheets of plastic rectangles on the paper, preferably with the print (color or text) facing each other and not the paper directly.

Step 3: Printed plastic on paper © Kolika Chatterjee

Step 3: Printed plastic on paper © Kolika Chatterjee

5. Cover with another sheet of paper. Again, the print should face up (not facing the plastic). Please make sure the plastic does not touch the towel underneath or your iron. It will melt and ruin the iron.

6. Next press down in the middle for about 6 seconds and gently but firmly smooth out in a radial way (this will make sure you don’t trap air bubbles.)

7. Once you have ironed it completely on one side, let it sit until cool to touch then flip the whole thing to the other side. The towel stays in place, whole thing refers to the plastic sandwiched in the 2 sheets of paper.

8. Iron again like step 6, but this time you can go a little faster, but keep your hands steady because the paper can be slippery.

9. Let cool, then slowly peel off the paper from both sides.

10. Cut the new reinforced plastic to shape and enjoy your new washable coasters and table liners.

Want more of a challenge?

  • Feel free to add more plastic and make it even thicker, you will see going beyond 11-12 is difficult, but give it a shot, because every plastic is different!
  • Try inclusions like maps, or quotes in between the sheets– kind of like laminating them; just make sure they are placed centrally, because as you probably have figured out, plastic doesn’t stick to paper and for the item to be useful, plastic has to have plastic to melt into.
  • Try with printed colorful bags or statement bags from your favorite brands.
  • Cut the fused sheets into 1″ circles and make earrings or bracelet charms.
  • Stitch multiple sheets of fused, reinforced plastic and make bags with them (yes, crazy but delicious!)

Faux pas and things I learned:

  • Parchment paper is really the way to go. Works so much better than printer paper, remains intact much longer and hence you don’t have to throw them away.
  • Clear plastic melts faster (like waaay faster.)
  • Overheating will distort your plastic and create holes (sometimes amusing and rather desirable shapes)

    Overheated Plastic With Holes © Kolika Chatterjee

    Overheated Plastic With Holes © Kolika Chatterjee

  • If printed plastic faces the paper, it can get sticky and distort the surface of the plastic when peeling; you can always cut it off but it wastes material!

    Edge Distortion © Kolika Chatterjee

    Edge Distortion © Kolika Chatterjee

  • If printed paper faces the plastic, the paper will tear, but you can wash off the paper from the plastic using a scrubber and dish soap.

    Scratched Mat, Had Paper Stuck To It © Kolika Chatterjee

    Scratched Mat, Had Paper Stuck To It © Kolika Chatterjee

  • Metal inclusions (like sequins or chocolate wrappers) get insanely hot and will destroy your plastic and can burn you. They get heated much faster than plastic and stays hot because the heat can’t escape through the plastic very fast.
  • For the brief few seconds when plastic stays molten, it is hot and can give you painful burns, so patience pays off.
  • Your final product is NOT microwavable (not sure why you would want to microwave it.)
  • It is not dishwashable (but a one-off cold cycle in the dishwasher will not kill it–the keyword here is “cold.”)
  • How to use it? Coasters for coffee mugs and/or dinner/snack plates are ideal. Please don’t put a very hot vessel on it, you don’t need a gooey, sticky mess underneath on your saucepan, trust me!
  • I owe it to my Food Microbiology background to tell you this: Soiled plastic that has come in direct contact with raw animal product (meat, broken eggs, or juices seeping from meat packages) should end up in the trash, NOT your recycle bin, definitely not your craft table. Protect your hygiene, then go save the earth.Always be careful with your iron, switch it off when not in use and let cool before stowing away.Here are some of my favorite fused plastics:
    Coasters From Repurposed Plastic © Kolika Chatterjee

    Coasters From Repurposed Plastic © Kolika Chatterjee

    Finished Product-Newbury Comics Coasters © Kolika Chatterjee

    Finished Product-Newbury Comics Coasters © Kolika Chatterjee

    Finished Product-Fishy © Kolika Chatterjee

    Finished Product-Fishy © Kolika Chatterjee

    Before I end, let me thank Bao (of Releve Design) once again for sharing great ideas on reusing plastics into fabulous craft items. So much to learn, so little time!

  • If you’re looking for more plastic bag inspirations, please visit our Trash Backwards app where we have more ideas for repurposing plastic bags!

    Click Through for More Plastic Bag Reuses at Trash Backwards

    Click Through for More Plastic Bag Reuses at Trash Backwards

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Categories: DIY, Repurpose and Reuse, Trash Pile - All Our Stuff, Upcycle


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2 Comments on “Repurposing and Reusing Plastic Bags”

  1. April 11, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    Thanks for sharing your Ideas with us we can use like this and if we have large number of waste material like papers, plastic and all which is not usable then we have to ask to those comapnies which are providing trash removal services and I hope I will find more couple of good Ideas from your new blog.

  2. Michelle
    January 2, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    Hmm, if you alternated and overlapped sections, do you think you could end up with something large enough to be used as an outdoor carpet? I know this product is not “dishwasher safe” but I would think it would hold up to just a little rain. Maybe use something to make it non skid on the bottom?

What can you add? Please share your ideas.

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