My Number-One Tip for Wrangling Any Plastic Bags That Come into My Home

published Aug 26, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Plastic bag filled with groceries on kitchen counter.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

I’m a sucker for a personality test. I know that I’m an Enneagram 1 and a Myers-Briggs ENFJ (shout out to my Protagonist partner Barack Obama!). And I know I’m a major Libra and have big “oldest child” energy. Plus, the alignment of my Dungeons and Dragons dwarf character, Angus Stout, is lawful good. If you, like me, love learning more about yourself and others, allow me to recommend my groundbreaking method: the Magnuson Plastic Bag Test. 

The test is pretty simple. Walk into someone’s home and ask them where they keep their collection of plastic bags. Everyone has that spot where they store all those shopping bags from Target runs and grocery trips. Are the bags corralled by a single bag and tucked into a drawer? Are they all shoved behind the refrigerator (where, I fear, they pose a serious fire hazard!?) Are they, like my mom’s, hung from the garage doorknob where they await their inevitable use as a dog waste receptacle? 

I’m a profoundly Type A person — and it’s obvious in the way I store my plastic bags. If you’re someone who feels bogged down by the bag buildup, I’ve created a system for myself that aligns with my personality’s needs. (Because let’s face it: Not everyone cares about this, and that’s okay!)

I’m all for a sustainable swap, so my household is working to cut back on day-to-day waste. This includes the use of plastic shopping bags. In addition, I live in Chicago, where plastic bag use is taxed (annoying, but smart). As such, I always bring my canvas bags to the store with me. I even keep a few spare totes in my car’s trunk for unexpected stops at Trader Joe’s. 

Credit: Minette Hand

Next to our front door, I keep several canvas tote bags on my coat hook. Whenever my partner and I return from a shopping trip that involves some plastic bags, we unpack our groceries and immediately gather up the plastic bags, placing them directly in our designated shopping tote. Over time, the tote collects not just the bags, but also recyclable packaging that comes with many household items, like toilet paper, paper towels, and other paper products. (Helpful hint: Take a peek at your supplies’ packaging before tossing it into the garbage — there’s a good chance this plastic can be recycled outside your home!). 

I also stash the recyclable plastic packaging from online orders here too! So many Amazon packages contain tons of recyclable material that I’d bet most folks throw into the rubbish bin without thinking twice. While I’m firmly in the “corporations are the real monsters destroying the earth and it’s insane to suggest that individual households save the globe from our impending climate change doom” boat, I’m all for doing my part too. If not for the sake of the world, then for my conscience. 

Once it’s time to restock on my Trader Joe’s favorites (I’m looking at you, Wine Country Chicken Salad), I simply grab my canvas bags and head to the market. Once there, my first stop is the recycling station that’s set up in most major grocery stores and Target locations. There, I pop all my plastic recycling into the correct receptacle and then carry on with my empty totes, prepared to fill them up with an extraordinary amount of Trader Joe’s brand of Takis (so good). 

If you’re not sure where your nearest plastic recycling location is, just check out this handy search tool (and remember, in some regions the ongoing pandemic has impacted availability, but I’ve noticed Chicago’s are back in full swing!). At this point, you’ve learned way too much about me and my shopping habits. But if you’re looking to keep the plastic bag pileup to a minimum, you now have a new game plan for your household.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The Effortless Thing I Did to Solve My Plastic Bag Collection