Plastic-free July: Weaving with soft-plastic wrappers

plag-bag--pasta
I wouldn’t call this shopping bag a thing of beauty, but it makes a statement in it’s own way.

Plastic-free July

This month, I’ve signed up to Plastic Free July, aimed at reducing single-use plastics.

    Most of the simple things I’m already doing so my challenge is to:

  • reduce usage of tetra-pacs: We’d use 5/week for soy and lactose free milk.
  • make beeswax wraps as an alternative to cling wrap
  • make shopping bags from soft plastic packaging waste

Weaving the bag

We had been separating out the soft-plastic packaging to drop off at the supermarket for recycling so I had a nice stash of source material.   It is woven using the same draft and techniques that I used for the rag-rug last year, but this time using strips of the plastic wrappers.

I would have liked to get the rosepath motifs to show up well, but it didn’t work well with the firmer pastics ( eg pasta and buscuit packaging). These needed to be cut into 1cm strips so pack down well. The softer plastics could be cut at 2cm. The easiest way to cut the strips was to use scissors to cut a spiral in the packaging. Initially I’d used a rotary cutter in the similar fashion to making strips from an old t-shirt, but it was slow and the plastics could tear when the links were cut. Trimming down any of the welded seams also helped get a better weave.

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Sewing the bag

Off the loom, all the ends were tied in triple knots and dabbed with glue. The warp was a thread used for outdoor awnings – were strong, durable, but quite slippery. I used webbing tape to support the edge and hide the knots. Webbing tape was stitched on to form the handles. It was sewn together at the side seam, and the bottom formed with a mitre. My machine handled all the stitching except the corners, which I had to hand sew.

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Did you know that a Tim Tam wrapper can make a 4m length of yarn?

While that may be a fun fact, it was kind of eye-opening to be going though our rubbish and seeing how may Tim Tam wrappers there were (quantity and variety). There was plastic wrapping on a bunch of flowers and a packet of gloves. But most of the packaging was the outer packaging from biscuits and pasta ( red/clear sections), or from cereal bag liners (semi-clear) sections.

Since then, I’ve started making our own biscuits. The Tim-Tam addict in the family is enjoying selecting which recipe to make. There is even a fight over who does the clean-up as they get to lick the bowl. Less plastic waste + washing-up done = win-win!

Bag woven from plastic packets. Colours from Tim Tam packets, clear from cereal packets.  Can you spot the mint slice?  white chocolate?  Caramel?  Milk or dark chocolate? :-0

Next steps

This bag is a bit of a prototype and I’ve learnt alot.  Not just getting the weave right, but also about our habits.  One small change to reduce my plastic waste, could over time,  add up.

It used about 3 months worth of soft-plastic waste.  By weight, about 25% of the waste still went to recycling as it wasn’t suitable of weaving (tears, offcuts etc).  It also sparks a bit of discussion at the super market check-out.  It has a lot of character.

There is still warp on the loom and I plan to make another couple of bags.  One in particular using soft-plastics from postal bags – white, pink and silver – which should work better with the rosepath design.

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  1. I really love this. I have very little waste of any sort and also take my soft plastic to the supermarket for recycling. It’s great to make something out of it but in the end it’s still needs to be recycled and we are woeful here with our recycling efforts at an industrial level. I detest the wasteful packaging as it is unnecessary. It’s hard to avoid… veggies on plastic trays??? Stupid. I love your solution… make your own Tim Tams! what a win, win!

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    1. Oh, veggies in plastic – crazy! Package corn cobs is a pet peeve, just don’t understand why they don’t leave it as it is. There is a wonderful fruit & veg shop in the town to our south that uses very little extra packaging ( mainly on cut melons/pumpkins or herbs) so I get really shocked at the packaging when I go to Woolies/Coles.

      I got brave last week and took my own containers to the butcher. He was fine with it, as long as the containers were squeaky clean to avoid contamination. The only thing in plastic was the lamb roast.

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