Dear Renee:

I have several cloth grocery bags that are starting to get holes.  I plan on using them until they no longer hold anything.  When the time comes to get rid of them, what do I do with them?

Tossing them in the trash seems to defeat their purpose but they don’t seem like they’re recyclable.


Hi Nikki,

Approximately 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year. That’s more than 1,200 bags per U.S. resident. And only 1-2% of plastic bags are recycled. Americans use 10 billion paper bags every year.

Don’t for a second think that using a reusable bag that will eventually need to be disposed of defeats the purpose! Even if you only use that bag 10 times (and I’m guessing you use it more than that), you’ve saved a minimum of 10 bags, but most definitely more considering that cloth bags often hold more items than paper or plastic and most stores have a tendency to double bag just about everything.

So, consider this. If you use two cloth grocery bags once a week for a year, you are single-handedly reducing the number of disposable bags used to 379,999,999,896 per year. Keep up the good work

Piece out,



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  • Anna Droste-Glowinski

    So the best bet is to toss them?

    • cajhne

      You can cut them into strips and mulch them with your compost pile. Cotton will biodegrade naturally in just 3 months. No need to put them in the landfill.

  • Laura Hildreth

    I use these old bags to pick up litter with when I’m out on a dog walk

  • katie

    would they compost?

    • Jayne

      would depend on the material

  • Jayne

    Can you double two worn bags to reinforce / cover the holes of the inner one. Or do you have a friend who can patch the holes?

  • Kait

    If there’s a nice design, that material can be used for other things once the bag is worn through on the bottom. My mom used a shopping bag that had the logo for my university on it to cover a cloth scrapbook she made me. There are still more uses for them!

  • Lloyd

    Some places recycle cloth. St. Vincent DePaul might.

  • meb

    You may recycle the bags and all worn out fabrics at Goodwill. I keep a bag to catch the socks that have worn through and the pants that have lost their looks and everything else made of fabrics that we wear or use, and wash them them then drop them off. There is a word that you can label them, but I forget what it is. I just say they are clean rags. Yesterday I had some boots from a 10 year old that were not in good enough shape to be used again. I asked if they have a use for them and the attendant said yes, there is something they can do with everything that comes their way, and thanks very much!

  • Chrissy

    I prefer canvas bags. I have had some for 20 years now. I replaced the handles on them and have mended a couple. However there are some very flimsy bags in my collection that tear easily. I generally avoid them or use them for lighter weight tasks. It is great to hear ideas for recycling/reusing them.

  • Alma

    The material that Nikki seems to be referring to is called “nonwoven polypropylene.” It is a plastic, and a #5 recyclable.

  • Marcia

    Renee didn’t even answer the question.

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