#ThinkDoMAKE: Using Recycled Plastic Bags

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Return to the Polyethylene page to see all resources  

#ThinkDoMake: Bin bag tote

Let’s Learn

This is a starting point for an idea only. The idea will need to be developed & a scheme of learning created in relation to the context of learners. An iterative design approach is encouraged. Credit should be given to the original source where appropriate.

  • Thermoforming polymers and heat setting 
  • Properties of materials e.g. polyethylene
  • 2D and 3D shapes
  • Wider impact e.g. sustainability
  • Pattern making 
  • Textiles construction techniques
  • Using a sewing machine
  • Reinforcement & structures
  • Forces & stresses used to create the materials
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Developing the idea & the learning further (these are a few examples only)

  • Look at thermoforming materials in different formats e.g. as a hard & soft material
  • Developing the idea to meet the needs of a specific user/design context
  • Develop the functionality of the product e.g. folding up into a storage bag, adding a pocket
  • Develop the size and shape e.g. of the bag, of the handles
  • Develop the decoration on the bag e.g. add appliqué, cut plastic into small pieces to fuse together to create a random effect coloured material
  • Substitute materials for others 
  • Substitute techniques for others e.g. cut plastic in to strips and knit or crochet
  • Model different outcomes in different materials (iterative design)
  • Link to the design theme e.g. Bauhaus, a designer, a culture
  • Identifying resources, costs and planning manufacture
  • Marketing and branding of the product
  • Below is an example of a cutlery roll which was one of the entries to the 2016 Product in a Tin competition that used recycled plastics to create a new product. Find out more about this entry.
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Review the learning that could be included in this project against the key learning areas curriculum document



Materials & any specialist equipment used in the example

  • Different coloured plastic bags
  • Baking parchment or Teflon sheets
  • Iron or heat press
  • Sewing machine


Other Links

Take a look at how Rebecca Marshall used recycled plastic bags in her degree work to create woven fabrics.

Treasured trash

Dutch designer Michelle Baggerman’s Precious Waste project uses yarns made from carrier bags to create beautiful woven fabrics that are soft and fine and nothing like the original bags. She uses a traditional drop spindle and spinning wheel to stretch the plastic and create a yarn. Watch the video below to see how she does this. 

As part of the Trash to Treasure exhibition in Nottingham, work by Circle Waste Craft was showcased. This included bags and rugs made from crocheted plastic bags. The small scale craft enterprise collects the bags which are cut into strips and crocheted into a range of products. How might this inspire your own ideas?


Take a look at this Pinterest page for ideas on knitting and crocheting with plastic bags

Designer Jisum Kim recycles plastic bags into vases by cutting out shapes and sealing the edges with an iron or hair straightener


Practical activities and ideas are provided as a starting point only. Students should use these as inspiration as part of an iterative design process developing the idea further themselves. Credit should be given to the original source where appropriate.


Return to the Polyethylene page to see all resources  


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