Kath wrote to me this week, asking about the mesh / string bags, that citrus fruit or onions come in.
She wanted to know how harmful they were and whether they are biodegradable.
We all hate them, but sometimes you end up with them. What do you do with them after use – is there a way to recycle, reuse or do they go into landfill?
I must admit, mine tend to go into the bin; I hadn’t thought about reusing them and I just try to avoid wherever possible. As far as I know they are NOT biodegradable, as they are made from plastic.
I put this query out to our wonderful Facebook Group and it seems in some areas of the world, you *can’t* avoid them. So what’s a zero waster to do?
Here are some suggestions from the Zero Waste community:
As they come with produce in them, why not reuse them suggests Brenda. She wrote “Cut them carefully maybe and use them as produce bag for the grocery store?” Irena suggests making them even more useful by adding handles. Nicole agrees AND points out a saving to be made. She says “I reuse them as vegetables bags. They weigh less than other reusable vegetable bags and therefore your fruit and veg costs less at the checkout. Can’t use it for beans or small things like that but works well for potatoes and apples, etc!”
After weighing up the options, Sheena came to this conclusion: “Unfortunately I think most of the reuse options have their own environmental issues – birds get caught in feeders and microfibers come off scrubbers. I avoid them but if I end up with one by accident I think the bin is the safest place for them. We need to campaign to stop production!”
My daughter buys body scrubbers for the shower, and Gemma suggests: “I’ve seen people make body scrubbers from these. Although in his comment, Christopher agrees with Sheena that these products are hazardous to the environment and should not be reused.
Have you burned your saucepan again? Rather than using these on your own skin in the shower, Lyn and Claire recommend using them as pan scrubbers. However, Christine comments that they should not be used for these purposes as they release microplastics into our water table.
Helen also uses her old product nets as dish scrubbers, but has a suggestion for washing dirty hands AND using up something you might usually throw away. She writes “I have one in the bathroom with all the leftover slivers of soap in to use them up. Too rough for the body, but okay for hands!”
Artists can turn all sorts of trash into treasure and Diane says “I’ve used them for all sorts of art projects.” Annette agrees; she says “They’re great for adding texture to collage acrylics.”
Annie writes “Knot it up like a rope as a cat toy!
Lyn confessed “I used them to make a Halloween costume for the dog- he wasn’t impressed.”
Kir and Katherine wondered whether we could use them as nets to make homemade fat balls for birds. Amanda suggested filling them with dryer lint for birds to use in their nests.
However, Rachel pointed out “Birds actually get caught and tangled in this stuff and often die, the RSPB etc are pushing for feeders like this not to be sold anymore, so maybe not for homemade ones either?” Louise said “Birds can get trapped and die in those. It’s why it’s recommended that people use feeders.”
One step up from reusing them as produce bags, Amparo wrote “They can be converted into a carrier bag either by crocheting or sewing them together.”
Camila reminded us “Some supermarkets accept them in their recycle bin with other produce bags and plastic bags!”
You know how annoying it is when your washing comes out the machine tangled around everything else? Noemi has a hack for that! She writes “I have one to put my bras in the washing machine, so that they don’t end up tangled with everything else.” Again, Christine is concerned that all this does is release microplastics into the water, and that these plastic nets should be landfilled
Elisa suggested “Hang in your shower or in the kitchen or in the garage and put your (body/dish/car) sponges in them to increase airflow and allow to air dry while preventing mold growth.”
What about you? If you can’t avoid them, how do you reuse the mesh / string bags that produce comes packaged in?