I love interacting with readers through email and the Comments section. In addition to helping readers, this interaction is a regular source of new ideas and inspiration. Here’s a recent example. A reader left a comment about the high price of mesh bags they encountered. My first reaction was “well, that was just one supplier, please keep trying.” But then I remembered someone else said something similar. This got me thinking of possible solutions, and so I wrote the following response that explains how you can probably find recycled bags in good condition at very low cost.

I recommend looking for companies who use the bags and have large quantities left over. That’s what I do. I’m paying 6 cents each. I could probably buy in bulk and get them even cheaper. I’m not saying everyone can do this, but it’s certainly worth a try. Plus, you’ll be using a recycled product and keeping the bags out of the landfill.

So here’s the basic process:
1. Ask the bag manufacturer/supplier who is buying their bags, or at least find out what they’re commonly used for (transporting limes?, etc.).
2. Try to track down who is buying the limes. Who is the end user? (wholesale fruit buyers?, grocery stores?, juice factories?).
3. Approach the end user (factory, etc.) and try to buy the used bags in bulk, making sure they’re still in good condition. You should be able to find the bags after they’ve been used one time. This means they should be in mint condition. They’re very strong and shouldn’t be damaged from just one use. The bags we used on our latest earthbag project were tamped extremely hard and did not tear, so it seems highly unlikely the bags would be damaged from one time use transporting fruits or vegetables.

The more I think about this the more sense it makes to spend a little time and track down used bags. Thousands of companies are using millions of these bags (and many millions more poly bags). Try this out and let us know your experience.


Comments

How to Locate Recycled Bags — 9 Comments

  1. I was going to post up more quotes from bag suppliers. Out of the 15 or more I inquired with, only a few supplied any quotes. The best price for raschel bags for the western US that I have received is from Volm Bag. The best price I could find for people in the eastern half of the US is Wholesale Discount Market. Both are around 19-20 cents each. Shipping is what drives up the cost.

    It seems some bag distributors don’t want to bother, even if your interested in purchasing 3000 or more bags. Others want as much or more then the regular poly bags. I had one supplier that wanted 60 cents each and an outrageous amount for shipping..

    I contacted a chain of restaurants about recycling onion bags. They got right back to me, but said that I would have to contact each establishment myself. They do not collect or recycle them at the corporate level. For those people in the Southwest who don’t need bags quickly and have an abundance of IN n Out hamburger restaurants, you might be able to get used onion bags. Unfortunately for me, there are only 2 outlets close enough.

  2. I found out today that Volm Bag is almost as cheap as Wholesale Discount Market. They are located in Wisconsin and have 18.5×30 inch raschel for 200 dollars a thousand. The shipping is a bit more reasonable. They quoted me about 260 dollars to ship 3000 bags. That comes out to a little over 28 cents a bag.

  3. I was hopeful that this supplier would be a good source for mesh bags, but that shipping is ridiculous. And the expired certificate is troublesome. It seems so easy – find a reliable and reasonably-priced supplier – but it is proving more difficult that I thought it would be.

  4. Thanks Gwen, I checked those people out last week. The problem is not the price of the raschel bags (they have good prices), but the shipping. To the west coast where I am at from Florida is twice as much as the bags. Plus it seems their security certificate has expired. I tried running a purchase thru their site today and their shopping cart wont tabulate shipping. The other day it was almost 200 dollars.
    I was hoping to find a local source for a quantity of bags, but thus far no real good results on the mesh. I am going to start contacting a chain of restaurants who use fresh onions, maybe they will have bags.

    If not I may just go with the regular poly.

  5. That’s a shame, Milton, about Sunkist. Here is a mesh bag supplier. http://www.wholesalediscountmarket.com/acatalog/Onion_Bags.html
    I don’t know anything about them, but their prices are right there on the website.

    Regarding our recycled bag collection, we have more than one source (ranchers plus in-town locals with chickens and goats) for poly bags, so they are accumulating at a decent rate. We are actually building an earthbag house on a remote no-permits-required site a little at a time as we can get there (90 miles away), and renovating a nearby place with plans to build earthbag fencing, some outdoor furniture (earthbag), and an outdoor shower (earthbag, too) as required permits allow. Is there a feed store in your area? They might be a good source. There was a feed store near me even when I lived in Houston.

    Good luck with your search.

  6. I contacted Sunkist, I will report back any news. Hopefully they will have some used mesh bags.

    If you have all the time in the world to gather bags, then getting folks to save feed bags is a good option. But it does requires you live in an agricultural area. Unfortunately most big producers ( those that would use tons of feed) buy in bulk and there are no bags. Feed is hauled in large trucks and fed into storage containers. Remember a 10ft x 10ft wall would require 143 bags. At 3-4 bags a week, it could take along while to build even a small size project.

    I am thinking maybe the people who are really serious about building like this should do a group buy. Maybe a container of mesh bags and divide up the cost or perhaps start an earthbag building coop. A coop could supply proven materials and tools to members.

  7. Trickling down to the bottom of the “bag” chain… I’m getting Purina equine feed 50# polypropylene bags from ranchers in my area. And yeah, it’s not 1,000 bags at once, but it is about 2 to 4 bags a week per rancher, so that can add up eventually and keep them out of the landfill. These bags will be used in a bench/outdoor furniture project that I’m starting in a few months. The hardest part is convincing the ranchers that I really do want as many bags as they can pass on to me. Good suggestion to find the wholesaler who’s buying mesh bags from the supplier.

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