10 Things You Should Never Throw Away

Plastic Grocery Bags
Discarded plastic bags aren't normally recycled. But they can be reused. Photobos/iStock/Thinkstock

Far out in the Pacific Ocean floats an island of garbage twice the size of Texas. Known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it's an accidental accumulation of millions of tons of floating debris — much of it plastic — trapped in a convergence of oceanic currents.

The single-use plastic grocery bag has been targeted by environmental groups as a ubiquitous symbol of waste. Discarded plastic bags can travel hundreds of miles on the wind and float along rivers and oceans, if they don't lodge in trees first. Every year, an estimated 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million sea birds die from ingesting plastic waste [source: Surfrider]. Several states are currently considering "ban the bag" laws [source: NCSL].

Part of the trouble is that most municipal recycling programs don't accept plastic grocery bags. Most grocery stores will take back used bags, or you can give them a second or third life through a number of household uses.

  • Make a comfy pillow for a pet by stuffing crumpled up plastic bags inside an old pillowcase.
  • Protect a fragile package by stuffing the box with plastic bags.
  • Use plastic bags as makeshift gloves when cleaning the bathroom.
  • if you're really crafty, you can even make raincoats, yarn and reusable grocery totes out of loads of old bags.