Plastic Bag Recycling

plasticbagthumb.JPGAnother bash at recycling plastic bags by knitting with them, but this time with a couple of differences - I'm only going to use bags that are at end-of-life - that is, otherwise to be thrown away, and I'm making something sturdy durable and useful - a basket.

On previous pages, we've looked at French knitting and use of plastic bag yarn. This page is more of the same, with just a couple of important differences:

  • I'm only going to use bags that are at end-of-life - that is, bags that would normally be thrown away at this point.
  • I want to make something really quite sturdy durable and useful this time - a basket.

The Raw Materials

plasticbag1.JPGFor this project, I'm using soft polythene bags - mostly from loaves of sliced bread, but also including some that contained fruit, fresh or frozen vegetables, items of clothing, etc.

They come in a fantastic range of colours, so that should make the finished item quite appealing. I will confess that since starting this project, I have been buying a greater diversity of loaves than usual, just because the wrappers were pretty.

plasticbag2.JPGMaking the yarn is as detailed on the previous page - roll the bag up, cut into strips and join with cow hitches, then roll up into a ball.

Rather than using a whole bag at a time, as in the last project, this time, I've mixed up the cut bag pieces and joined them in a very mixed, random fashion, to provide a different effect.

plasticbag3.JPGConstruction of my basket will be a two-stage process. First, I will knit up the yarn on my six-peg French knitting bobbin, to form a tough rope.

When I have a sufficient quantity of rope, I will stitch it together in a flat coil to make the base of the basket, then form the sides by a similar coil process - just like making a clay coil pot

plasticbag4.JPGThe material knits up into a fairly uniform, hollow and highly flexible cord about one and half centimetres in diameter.

My intentional mixing of the different pieces of bag has paid off - it looks nice.

Each bread bag produces about 15 to 20cm of knitted rope.

It's pretty laborious work, however, after a little practice, I'm able to knit without looking, so I can do it while watching something on TV. I have already completed two quite large sections of rope, with a third in progress (awaiting more materials).


January 2009 - Construction Of The Basket

I've been working in spare moments during the holiday break and I now have four coils of knitted rope. Something like 10 metres of it in total.

Direct Recycling

Like my Drink Can Tinwork - this is something I'm starting to call 'Direct Recycling' - that is, the immediate manufacture of new items out of old, without extensive reprocessing of materials in between.

It's quite an exciting concept, because - where it is possible - it can be greatly more efficient and environmentally friendly than ordinary recycling, with which there are costs in collecting, transporting, reprocessing and redistributing the material.

The Rope

plasticbag6.JPGIt took me many hours to complete this and I have some interesting new calluses on my fingers, but here it is - approximately 10 metres of knitted plastic rope, made from old bags.

I'm going to stitch the basket together with - you guessed it - more plastic bag yarn - this time, made from a very tough carrier bag I got from a shoe shop. I could use bread bags here again, but I think it deserves something stronger.

plasticbag7.JPGI attached a single loop of the yarn to a large darning needle by passing one end through the eye, then putting the needle's point back through it. This can easily be undone in order to attach the next length when required.

plasticbag8.JPGHaving roughly worked out a plan of action, I sewed the ropes to themselves in a spiral coil pattern (more on that in a moment)

It was only necessary to pass the needle under one stitch on the edge of each section of rope - as illustrated - and skipping one or two rows along each time.

plasticbag9.JPGI decided to make an oblong bag-type basket, so I formed the base by creating an elongated spiral around a single straight length of rope.

plasticbag10.JPGAfter the base was completed, I started building the same coil up the sides - easy enough to do just by holding the rope in place to work out how it should join onto the previous coil.

The basket more or less formed itself. Again, this is hard work, but it looks like the end result is going to be quite interesting.

plasticbag11.JPGThen the main body of the bag was finished - it turns out that 10 metres of rope is just about enough. However, I needed to make a little more for the handles, and once again, I was out of bags.

This time, I got a couple of friends and relatives to save their empty bread bags for me...

plasticbag12.JPGTo make the handles, I knitted up a couple of sections of rope, each about a metre long, then folded them double and stitched them in that position.

Then I attached them to the sides of the bag, stitching right through the full thickness of the handle and bag sidewall, fixing them to the top six rows of the bag, to help distribute the load a bit.

The End Result

I'm really very pleased with this. The end result is a very stout, sturdy basket bag - perhaps a little too colourful for me to carry around without feeling self-conscious, though.