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YouthCity is Saving the Planet One Reusable Bag at a Time

Students in the YouthCity program at Sorenson Unity Center care about the future of our planet and our community!

YouthCity is a Salt Lake City Division offering programs for children and young adults ages 8-19. They have many offerings throughout the city, including after-school and full-time during the summer. The programming is designed to foster positive youth development in an inclusive and caring environment.

This year, YouthCity ran a Session of Service program to explore and take action on issues affecting our community, with staff and students collectively brainstorming ways to get involved.

So far, they have completed several impactful projects focusing on air pollution, homelessness, and plastic pollution.

We want to highlight one project in particular . . .

Making Reusable Bags

Our YouthCity tote bag

The students learned that 160,000 plastic bags are consumed per second globally and that there is a plastic garbage patch twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean! Their concern for the environment and the impact plastic bags have on animals, spurred an innovative project where they transformed old t-shirts into reusable shopping bags to help address this problem.

After making the bags, the students helped deliver them to members of the community along with information explaining why using a reusable bag is better than a plastic bag.

Here are instructions to make your own no-sew t-shirt tote bagCheck out their video to see how they made theirs!

“This was a great experience for participants of the afterschool program to be in touch, educate, and share with their community.”


– Jorge Chamorro, former Community Programs Manager, Public Services

The YouthCity participants hit the nail on the head: We can all be a part of the solution to plastic waste by avoiding single-use bags when possible and using reusable totes and containers instead.

It all comes back to the 3 R’s of waste management: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE.

  1. Reduce the amount of single-use plastic you consume by using reusable bags. Exercise your power as a consumer by saying No to single-use bags and Yes to reusables.
  2. Reuse the bags you do have. Or, as these kids demonstrated, think creatively about how to reuse old material to make something new.
  3. Processing recyclables requires energy and also cannot capture all of the disposable waste generated by our society. That’s why recycling is the last of the 3R’s. Recycling is meant for goods that have reached the end of their lives.

Remember that plastic film and bags should be kept out of your blue curbside container, but they can be recycled back at the store. Many retailers have dedicated recycling receptacles for plastic bags. In fact, drop-off sites accept most types of soft plastic film, not just grocery bags.  (If your favorite store doesn’t offer plastic bag recycling, ask them to join!)

Recyclable film includes most types of plastic bags, plastic packaging like bubble wrap, and the plastic wrapping that comes around paper products or drink cases. Basically, any clean, dry plastic that you can stretch or crush into a ball with your hand is recyclable. A more complete list of all recyclable soft plastics can be found here. Just make sure to remove items from any bags before dropping them into the bin. And only deposit clean, residue-free bags or plastic film.

(Plastic film does not include frozen food packaging, candy or chip wrappers, or those types of packaging).

What happens to your plastic bags after they’re recycled? Many recycled plastic bags end up as composite lumber that is used for decking and park benches. Other plastics get melted down and remade into new plastic bags, which is much less resource-intensive than starting from scratch.


Recycling Plastic Bags With Trex Decking

These are good solutions, but remember, recycling plastic film should be a last resort. We need to REDUCE and REUSE whenever possible and these t-shirt bags are a great way to do both!

Thanks for showing us how it’s done, YouthCity!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I am glad that in other parts than in Finland, people have ideas to recreate and reuse old stuff. I give some examples from Finland:

    You can mage new bags from empty coffee bags, so why to throw them away. Here my wife shows:

    How to make bags from empty coffee bags

    Quilters have been thinking and making bags during the years. Examples from Finland:

    Quilted hand bags and toiletry bags

    All the best!

    May 12, 2019

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