Reusable Bag Overload? Donate to Those Who Can't Afford Them

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Photo by thetbone via
Guest bloggers Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer are co-founders of

We have them in the trunks of our cars, stashed in closets, and in cupboards: Reusable bags have become ubiquitous, so much so that many of us have more than we can possibly use. And they just keep piling up.

With taxes and surcharges on plastic bags, cities and countries banishing the plastic bag, stores selling or giving away reusable bags, and reusable bags being handed out like candy at conferences, it's easy to see why many of us are facing a reusable bag glut.

There's one big hitch in the war on plastic bags: plastic bag bans and fees penalize people who can't afford to spend money on bags, whether they're plastic or reusable.Reusable Bags Don't Grow On Trees
While it could be argued that paper bags are a simple, fee-free alternative to the plastic or reusable bag, paper isn't always an option. And even if it were, have you ever tried to carry home even two paper bags full of groceries? It's not easy. And if you have four bags of groceries, forget it.

Surcharges and taxes for plastic bags seem like a good compromise, but fees do little to discourage anyone with disposable income. But for people who are struggling to pay rent and put even the bare minimum of food on the table, an extra dollar can mean more apples or a can of juice; there's certainly no room in the budget for a set of reusable bags.

Get Reusable Bags Into the Hands of People Who Need Them
So how can we get reusable bags to the people who need them? New York City-based Bags for the People does a fantastic job of providing access to fabric and sewing machines to teach people how to make bags, and they also give away free bags at the Union Square Farmer's Market. We'd love to see more projects like this in communities around the world.

This past fall we noticed that one supermarket chain in Canada had bagged their food bank donation packages in reusable bags instead of the paper bags they'd used previously. It was a fantastic idea. Not only does this get bags into the hands of people who wouldn't be able to afford them, the load seems a little lighter without a plastic bag digging into their fingers.

As the idea percolated in our minds over the past few months, we realized two things:

  1. This idea has the potential to truly help people who need it most.
  2. We don't need to rely on a retailer to get those bags to people who need them--we can make a difference year round.

Any one of us can donate reusable bags to our local food bank, as well as shelters, halfway houses, group homes, and other similar organizations. Go through your drawers and cupboards regularly to look for bags that aren't used. Donating these will help you de-clutter your own life and help someone else at the same time.

If you have a difficult time remembering donate reusable bags, we have a couple of simple solutions that should keep your overflow of bags in control:

  • Every time you donate goods to a food drive, and every time you drop off items at your local food bank, soup kitchen, or shelter, put those items in a clean reusable bag instead of a plastic bag--the organization can then pass those reusable bags on to their patrons.
  • Next time you head to the supermarket to do some shopping and you find you haven't used all of the bags you brought, put them in the food bank box on your way out

If you make donating excess reusable bags a part of your routine, you'll de-clutter your home and make a difference in someone's life.

More on Reusable Bags:
Greenwash Watch: "Reusable Bags are a Health Threat"
Plastic Bags Used in DC Drop From 22 Million to 3 Million a Month
China's Ban Kept 100 Billion Plastic Bags Out of the Trash

Reusable Bag Overload? Donate to Those Who Can't Afford Them
We have them in the trunks of our cars, stashed in closets, and in cupboards: Reusable bags have become ubiquitous, so much so that

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