A little less plastic

I’ve been trying to reduce how much plastic I use and then have to throw away.

I do recycle both hard and soft plastics, I don’t use plastic carrier bags in supermarkets, and now, I won’t need to use those flimsy single-use produce bags any more, hurray! I’ve put together a set of netting produce bags in different sizes, with a drawstring top. Washable, light and easy to see through. They can live in my heavy insulated fabric shopping bags. They’ll be getting a test run shortly, and if all is well, I’ll make a batch more.

I had an old roll of mosquito netting which was perfect for this, being stretchy and non-fraying, and there’s still plenty left for more bags, or replacements when these get a bit tired or start falling apart. The drawstrings are shoe laces, and I used a sewing machine stitch which combines a straight line and a zigzag to finish the edges a little – they don’t need it, but I like things tidy πŸ™‚

I got the idea from Celia at Fig Jam & Lime Cordial. She’s a bit of a green superstar and recycling warrior among her many other talents, and her blog is well worth following if you don’t already do so.

Hmm. I think I need some different shapes. Rhubarb, cucumbers, kale, stuff like that…

68 thoughts on “A little less plastic

  1. tialys says:

    I follow Celia – she is an inspiration in these matters.
    What have you got in that bag? I can’t decide whether they’re buttons, biscuits or chocolates.

  2. knettycraft says:

    That is coming directly from my heart! I recently did the same with left overs of our window mosquito nets and ordered some cotton tulle to make some more. I was really shocked that at our latest holidays I always found (and grabbed) plastic on the beach…. esp. straws, lollipop sticks and q-tip sticks (of course beside all sorts of plastic foil). Since we was at the Northern Sea in our Easter vacancies I aim to pick up 3 pieces of plastic every day, regularly on my way home from work …. I can’t save the world but I can do what I can in my immediate vicinity 😊πŸ’ͺ

    • katechiconi says:

      We have a national Clean Up Australia Day each year, where thousands of people everywhere go out together and pick up rubbish, and it’s sorted as it’s collected so that it can be recycled straight away. It sounds as if you need some friends to work with on your daily mission!

    • katechiconi says:

      I can’t take credit for the idea, but it’s so much better than all those flimsy single-use bags, and you can sling them in the washing machine when they get grubby.

  3. Mine were made from the off-cuts when I shortened some muslin curtains. Recently I’ve removed a couple such curtains which were in a bit of a state, but I can work around the worn bits and plan to make some more produce bags as I don’t really have enough. It’s a great way to use up scraps.

    • katechiconi says:

      That’s a great use of leftovers! If you do make more bags, how about showing them for ScrapHappy? My mozzie netting was leftover from a vegie cage and gathering dust in a corner. I rediscovered it when I moved the room about and couldn’t think of a use for it till I saw Celia’s bags and knew I had to copy them.

      • I’m currently trying to work out how to get my overlocker to sew muslin… once I find the best stitch, I will be away.

      • katechiconi says:

        Is it the machine chewing up the start of the seam that’s the problem? If so, you could butt a piece of cotton up against the start and begin stitching on that. But probably the best way is to lay a thin strip of cotton along the seam line (armhole tape or something would be perfect) and stitch through it. Overlockers like something to chew on, don’t they?

      • I was considering multiple layers, but you are right, some tape would probably be best and I must have some somewhere…

  4. claire93 says:

    we can never be too green ^^

    • katechiconi says:

      Exactly! If I had a farmer’s market or greengrocer handy I’d shop with a basket, but no such luck…

      • claire93 says:

        ha! we were shopping in our local organic store yesterday and they were selling muslin bags, exactly like yours, 5 bags for 3.50€. Since I don’t have any mosquito net or muslin in my stash, I splashed out and bought two lots of 5 bags because I can’t be bothered to scout around for fabrics to make my own. So thank you so much for sharing the idea.
        Btw – wanted to add, in France, supermarkets stopped supplying free plastic carrier bags something like 8 years ago now.

      • katechiconi says:

        That’s a good price, and a saving of time too. Our supermarkets are a bit behind the times, it’s very true. I’d love to see what they made of customers leaving them with all the unnecessary packaging, like the UK customers in the video Nanette mentioned in another comment.

  5. Good work. We’re like you, recycling and composting, moving useful things to other people who can use them. But there are some glitches in the system and plastic produce bags are one of them. Around here, a lot of the produce (like your lovely plums) have tiny stickers on each item, and the check-out clerks use those to ring up the purchase. It would be hard for the electronic reader to see those through the mesh, I think. Still, I’ll think more about how we could get something like that to work.

    • katechiconi says:

      We’re lucky enough to have self-service checkouts (I hate other people packing my groceries!), and the machines have scales and a touchscreen where you can select the produce you’re weighing, so the sticker code isn’t needed. I wonder if a pillowcase fold-over or envelope flap would allow you to access an item for scanning. Otherwise, shock horror, you might need to put a vinyl ‘window’ in the bag!

  6. mlmcspadden says:

    Very useful, and green!

    • katechiconi says:

      Even the bootlaces are recycled πŸ™‚ However, since I only have a finite supply of those I’ll have to use new cord for future bags. Never mind, at least I’m not using plastic.

  7. Christina says:

    Way to go! We too are trying our best to reduce plastic in our home. You are amazed at how much is plastic! We bought our reusable produce bags as I didn’t think to make them back then 😏 But I do recommend a cloth bag for your greens. That way you can keep them damp to prevent wilting. Those should be easy to make too 😊

    • katechiconi says:

      I have only a very short drive from the shop to home, and my shopping bags are insulated cloth, so my greens stay in pretty good shape. The one thing I wish I could get rid of is those polystyrene trays they put meat products on… Impossible to recycle at present.

      • Christina says:

        I leave the greens in the cloth bag in the fridge. Yes the meat trays are in issue so we go to the butcher counter and buy meat weekly. They wrap it in butcher paper.

      • katechiconi says:

        I like to ‘nude my food’ πŸ™‚ I wish our butchers would use just paper, but they insist on plastic first to prevent leakage…

      • rosejasm says:

        Fab post – top recycling points. I was reading a blog where the chap would take his own containers and ask the butcher to put it straight in, the butcher was up for it! πŸ˜€

      • katechiconi says:

        We occasionally buy a half pig or lamb and get the butcher to break it down for us. In a situation like that, I’d definitely use my own containers! It’s a much cheaper way to buy the meat, too, as long as you have freezer space.

  8. Fab idea and so simple too πŸ™‚

  9. Emmely says:

    I’ve been thinking about doing this because the amount of plastic we collect in a week is quite astonishing. We don’t buy that much fruit and vegetables in the supermarket though because most of what we eat is delivered at our home in brown paper bags but reusing bags is certainly better even if you only use a couple.

    • katechiconi says:

      I wish we could get that grocery delivery service… but I suppose even the paper bags would have to be recycled. A nice wooden box you could give back, or a basket would be best of all, wouldn’t it?

      • Emmely says:

        It’s a local service and most of the stuff is organic and from the Netherlands. We don’t get to choose what we get which forces me to sometimes cook outside of my comfort zone which is great (and probably healthy). We don’t give back the bags but recycle them with the other waste. A disadvantage of a crate would be that the produce rolls around during transport which would result in more bruised produce which is why I think they don’t do it that way.

      • katechiconi says:

        Crates are popular here for vegetable box deliveries because they can be reused again and again. I really wish we were close enough to a supplier to get them, but the nearest is several hours away…

  10. anne54 says:

    I picked up some mesh bags in England about 10 years ago, and love using them. Their problem is that the mesh is a little too big, and so things like beans get a little caught, but a small price to pay to not have plastic bags. Your mosquito netting would be a great solution to this. Making your own will allow you to customise the shape of the bags to suit your veggies.
    I get annoyed by the polystyrene trays too, but even more so at the plastic containers for things like kiwi fruit. And don’t get me started on the little plastic labels that are stuck on apples and kiwi fruit. Grrr

    • katechiconi says:

      Oh, those labels drive me nuts. If I had time, I’d stand there in the supermarket and pick them all off and leave them for the supermarket to dispose of…

  11. I bought 3 mesh bags in my grocery for produce but I need more than 3 and the shape isn’t always perfect and there is no stopper for the drawstring. But you have me thinking now. I wonder if some old lace or organza curtain material would work? I have quite a bit from cutting off old curtains to fit my current home. I try to not buy anything with with the plastic try and told the meat dept about it. I get most of my meat in paper wrap. You should have seen the waitresses face when I said I didn’t need a straw for my drink, that I brought my own. It travels in my purse since I can’t drink out of anything without one. I need a narrow bendy straw which most places don’t have. And I don’t want to contribute to the waste. Believe it or not, I bought a box of straws 8 years ago when my face froze and have most of them left. I just wash and reuse. I have my own canvas bags for shopping and some nylon that roll into their own bag in my purse so I never have to have a plastic shopping bag. I was telling the waitress about the whale they found dead with 65 pounds of plastic in it’s stomach. She was totally unaware or seemed to care. It has to stop.

    • katechiconi says:

      Our supermarket is not going to supply single use plastic carrier bags as of June, but they’ve said nothing about single use produce bags, so I thought it was time to take action there. I haven’t used a plastic bag for years now. I feel very nostalgic about my mother’s wicker shopping basket which had a red and white gingham lining. Everything went into that, dirty potatoes, naked carrots, bags of sugar, the lot. If the supermarket scales could tare with that on them, I’d use baskets instead, every time.

      • I brought one back from Germany for farmers market shopping. Our FM will be open every Saturday now. So looking forward to it. I do cherish my basket but I wish it had wheels under it. πŸ™‚

      • katechiconi says:

        I used to have a nanna shopping trolley in red, when I lived in a small farming community, and never used anything else. I gave it to my sister when I left and she uses it still, nearly 10 years later.

  12. nettyg says:

    I have a bunch made from a baby cot net a friend was going to take to the op shop, and others in muslin and fine cotton for my bulk buys from the whole foods. One of the ladies at our farmer’s market sells them for me at her stall, I made those a bit fancy with a cotton print ‘collar’ for the drawstring. Have you seen the video going round of people in English supermarkets unwrapping everything they can that’s sealed in plastic or on trays, popping things into re-usable bags and leaving trolleys full of the waste for the supermarkets to deal with. It’s wonderful, Supermarket Guerrillas!

    • katechiconi says:

      I have seen that, and I’m sorely tempted to give it a go, especially with things like cereals and anything double wrapped. You’d have to do it after the checkout, of course, and my only doubt is whether the supermarket would bother to recycle properly. If I did it at Coles, I could use the RedCycle bin straight away instead of taking all that stuff home and having to bring it back.

  13. Lynda says:

    I picked up the habit of using my own produce bags when I visited friends in Costa Rica. It really confuses the folks at the register here in the states! I have repurposed the mesh packaging from bagged fruts, but like yours better because of the drawstring. Thanks for sharing this, Kate.

    • katechiconi says:

      I found the drawstring works well without needing a toggle to hold it closed; perhaps a combination of the flexible grippy netting and the bootlace. Either way, they stay closed well and the mesh is small enough to hold in everything, no matter how small.

  14. You’re very kind, Kate, thank you! You take a lot more care with finishing your bags than I do – they look great! πŸ™‚

    • katechiconi says:

      I don’t think you’d say so if you could see them, but I must say I do like the stretchy mozzie netting: I just put a pineapple in one of the big ones and it worked perfectly! And best of all, I still have several metres of it, so years of produce bags to come…

  15. What a good idea. I usually just group things loosely in the bottom of my basket. That works well for a handful of onions, but less well for things like beans. I would be tempted to leave off a drawstring simply to reduce weight, so I am not charged for the weight of a shoelace every shopping trip! I might have some tulle netting somewhere …

    • katechiconi says:

      A drawstring does help to keep things tidy, especially if the contents are tempted to roll about. I suppose if you made the bag with a pair of ‘ears’ to knot that would work too. I actually put a produce bag on the scales at Woollies and it refused to register the weight at all, so I think I’m safe.

  16. nikkibnb says:

    I’ve been thinking of doing these, although I was a little apprehensive about them weighing too much. But I’m glad to see they don’t. Now to see if I have any suitable fabric lying around!

    • katechiconi says:

      I’d encourage you to give it a try. But do use the lightest stuff you have, or it might make a difference. I definitely wouldn’t go fancy, with toggles and clips and so on, though!

  17. nanacathy2 says:

    What a neat idea. Brill.

  18. Emma says:

    This is such a great idea! we normally don’t use a bag for produce but some are a bit harder to get without a bag than other (green beans I’m talking about you!). I was actually using the paper mushroom bags but these look great and wouldn’t take too long, I might have to steal your idea!

  19. magpiesue says:

    Wow, I’m impressed. We could sure use some bags like that. Trouble is, Hubby would probably leave them home more often than not (to say nothing of the fact that I’d have to be pretty inspired to make a set).

    • katechiconi says:

      I keep them in my shopping bags, so they don’t get forgotten. They don’t take long to make, about 5 minutes each, but I do concede it’s not as exciting as quiltmaking or embroidery!

  20. rutigt says:

    This is a great idea! I first read about it on the blog http://birthesrom.blogspot.no/. She is using old curtains for her bags!

  21. Made similar bags recently out of old voile fabric from a charity shop. First trial run today and am super happy with them. Didn’t have my sewing machine out in ages but the ease of making the bags gave me motivation again. Win-win for environment and sewing machine πŸ™‚

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