Using the reusable bags at the shop check-out is well-known, and is getting wider acceptance. Also, some details were already discussed here before. However, what to do with transparent plastic bags supermarkets provide in their bulk foods and produce sections? I already try to minimize my usage by putting several things in one bag (mainly those sold in singles, like bell peppers, or bunches of radishes). I can also see bringing some of them back and reusing them.

But I wonder if there is some viable long-term alternative. I was recently reading some article promoting use of bulk foods, and one of the benefits stated was reduction in packaging waste, especially with use of reusable bags. What would those be? Requirements would be transparency so that the cashier can see what you’re buying, and ability to hold friable stuffs such as flour or sugar.

  • I agree with [half-integer fan]. My girl friend knitted several shopping bags of different sizes with large holes on them. Works perfect!
    – ZZZ
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 21:31

3 Answers 3


Some stores (for example the co-op in Northfield, MN) allow you to bring your own reusable plastic or glass containers, but you need to weigh your containers before you fill them. The co-op in Bozeman, MT provides clean glass jars for bulk liquids, and when you have finished with them you can bring them back to the store to be cleaned and set out for other customers.

So yes, there are sustainable alternatives, but you will need to check with your local store to be sure they will accept your containers.


For produce, you can make or buy mesh bags for use just as you reuse the grocery bags. We made some but I would think that bags made to hang items for drying (e.g. while camping) would work well. For powders you could use glass jars if your grocery has scales that can be tared. You could also use a stronger storage bag like Ziploc that is more likely to stand up to reuse.


For many things, just don't use a bag. I watched a man struggling to get a bunch of bananas into a plastic bag at the supermarket yesterday. There was no reason for it: the peels protect the bananas and they are collected into a bunch already. If I buy two or three of something, I don't need to put them in a bag. The cashier can put your three tomatoes on the scale together without difficulty. Then they can go in a big bag with other vegetables.

When you do need a bag, you can reuse the ones from the supermarket dozens of times. I get home, put the fruit or veggies where they belong, and put the bags in with the larger cloth bags I am taking to the supermarket anyway. Done. If whatever I bought is going to stay in the plastic bag till I use it, fine, and then off it goes to the "bag of bags". I can't imagine ever running out even when I occasionally recycle one (we can recycle film plastic where I live) for being hopelessly shredded, but if I do, I can pick up another at the supermarket at the moment I realize I need it.

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