How to Upcycle Plastic Bags: 4 Easy Craft Ideas

By Erica Loop in Thinking Sustainably


According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans use more the 380 billion plastic bags and wraps annually. Instead of tossing your bags in the trash and adding to the plastic littering landfills across the US, you can make a difference!

Learn how to upcycle plastic bags in an awesomely artsy and environmentally friendly activity. Whether you are a Pinterest-loving supreme crafter or just getting started, try one of these easy upcycling ideas.

shopping-bag

1. Braided Bracelets

There's no need to spend money on fancy craft store embroidery floss, yarn, and ribbon. All you need to make a colorful braided bracelet is some plastic bags. This craft is perfect for kids but still fun for adults, too! For this upcycled craft, you'll need to gather:

  • Plastic bags in three different colors
  • Scissors

With only two materials, this craft couldn't be easier. Simply cut the bugs into like-sized strips. You'll need three strips for each bracelet, and an extra to hold the braid together at the top.

Line the three strips up evenly and tie them together with the fourth piece of plastic. Braid the strips, measure your wrist, and tie the ends together to bind the bracelet closed. Try this craft as is or get fancy and braid two or three braids together into one mega-bracelet.

2. Pretend Play Purse

If your pretend play-loving kid, niece, nephew, or little sibling is all about purses, this one's for you, especially if the cost of pricey pretend play gear isn't exactly in your budget. This creative craft gives kids the chance to magically transform a plastic bag into a purse for days of dress-up play—and all you need is:

  • Two to three plastic shopping bags
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape or colorful electrical tape

Cut off the top half of one plastic bag. Poke two holes in the bag—one on each side, approximately two inches down from the top. Thread or wind the tape through and around the holes to stop them from tearing during use. When you're done, the tape should create a complete border around the holes.

Now you're ready to add the handles. Follow the bracelet braid instructions above and you're set! Size the braids longer than you would for a bracelet. Chances are you'll need two extra bags to cut into strips to make the braids long enough to use as purse handles.

Thread one braid through each taped hole. Bind the ends together with another piece of tape to create a purse handle loop. Repeat this step for the other side.

3. Crocheted Craft Rug

Are you an avid crocheter? Long gone are the days when crocheting is a craft for grandmas and grandpas. You'll use upcycled plastic bags instead of yarn for this rug project. Before you start crafting, you'll need:

  • Plastic bags in different colors
  • Scissors
  • A plastic crochet hook

If you're wondering how to upcycle plastic bags into yarn—creating a material called plarn (plastic yarn)—start with a fold-and-cut method. Place the bag flat on your work surface. Snip off the handles and start folding the bag at one end. Make one- to two-inch folds. After you've folded the bag completely, cut it into small inch-long segments.

Unfold the segments and loop them together, tying each one together to make a long string. Now you have plenty of plarn to work with! Repeat with other colors to make a spool-full of rainbow plarn.

Grab your crochet hook and create a slip knot with the plarn. Start stitching your choice of round or rectangle rug. Keep the stitches somewhat loose as you crochet your crafty masterpiece. Lighten the tension and don't over-pull to keep each stitch from completely tightening.

Plastic bag crochet rug

4. Plastic Bag Flowers

Whether you want to dress up a ho-hum gift, make your own hair accessory, or just want to DIY faux flowers, plastic bags are the perfect material to craft petal magic with. This artsy activity is perfect for anyone, from preschoolers to parents and beyond. Bonus—this environmentally-friendly craft means you don't have to pick and pull growing plants from the ground.

To get crafting, you'll need:

  • Plenty of plastic bags
  • Scissors
  • Green pipe cleaners

Flatten the bags and stack them on top of each other. Free-form cut a roundish flower petal pattern. Size the circles larger or smaller, depending on your personal preference. The larger the petals, the bigger and bolder the flowers. Instead of perfect circles, add bumps and waves to create a somewhat more realistic look.

Stack the petals, using one color or alternating hues. Poke two small holes in the center of the stack and thread a pipe cleaner through one. Bend the pipe cleaner slightly and thread it through the other hole. Twist the green stem at the top (just under the bottom plastic bag petal layer) to secure the faux flower. Repeat to entire process to create more flowers to add to your bouquet.

Fluff the flowers and create a bouquet or tie the pipe cleaner stems to a gift wrap ribbon or another surface.

Upcycling plastic bags is an easy, eco-friendly way to get crafty with a purpose. From bracelets and purses to rugs and roses, you can upcycle your way to an art-filled day with family, friends, or by yourself!

Are your kids into eco-friendly arts and crafts? Follow the Naturally Crafty Kids board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest for more ideas!

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons | Pixabay | Flickr

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Why It's Good

These creatively crafty ways to upcycle plastic bags allow you to help the planet and get artsy at the same time! This double-duty activity is an eco-friendly way to stop plastic from ending up in landfills while making useful items and awesome works of art.