Even if they were not a contributor to plastic waste, the produce bags offered in supermarkets would still be unsatisfactory. Torn from the roll on the produce counter, the bags are almost impossible to prize open, especially for older arthritic hands, and are too flimsy to recycle successfully.
It is far better for the environment, as well as your temper, to ignore them altogether and just put your produce in the shopping basket. But then, how do you get them home safe and unmarked? The answer is to take your own produce bags to the shops. Weigh and pay for your produce, then put it into your own reusable bags for safe transport.
The great thing about this simple solution is that it eliminates the extra weight of both the plastic bags and your homemade alternative (no matter how tiny, it does count). You can weigh the produce by itself, or have it weighed by the counter assistant, so all you are paying for is the produce. You then place it in your homemade bags, and because that weight is never counted, the bags can be made of anything you fancy.
You can use fine mesh for delicate produce such as easily bruised stone fruits and mushrooms, and hessian or denim for root vegetables such as potatoes and swedes. Better yet, you can make them in different sizes so you always have the right bag for your produce, instead of the one-size-fits-all at the supermarket.
To make this system even more environmentally friendly, you can recycle old fabrics to make your bags. Old net curtains, worn-out jeans, T-shirts, sheets and pillowcases make ideal materials for produce bags. Cut a piece of leg off an old pair of jeans, sew one end together and hem the open end, and you have a quick solution to bagging potatoes and onions for the trip home.
You decide on the measurements for your bags, but the main thing to remember is to have an opening large enough to get the amount of produce you are buying into the bag. For most purposes, 10″ x 14″ (25.5 x 35.5 cm) is a useful size, but you can make them smaller or larger as you wish. Cut out two 10″ x 14″ rectangles (or one 10″ x 28′ and fold) and sew three sides together, leaving an opening at the top. You can hem the opening and add a drawstring if you wish.
Depending on your skill level at sewing, you can make the bags plain or fancy them up using embroidery, applique or transfers. The extra weight won’t matter, as you will be weighing the produce before bagging it. If the retailer has a problem with that, go somewhere else. One of the best ways to use your own produce bags is to use self-service checkouts and weigh the produce yourself before bagging it.
In return for the time and effort spent cutting out and sewing the bags, you will have less waste to deal with, which helps the environment. You also save money by weighing the produce alone. It’s a win for you and the planet.