12 ways to reuse mesh / string produce bags

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:

Produce bag

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!”

Campaign to stop them

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!”

Body Scrubber

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.

Pan scrubbers

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.

Make soap

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.”

Cats and dogs

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.”

Garden birds

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.”

Reusable shopping bags

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!”

Tangle-free washing

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

Aerate your sponges!

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?

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Rachelle Strauss


  1. Elliot on June 15, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Retailers are the recipients of large profits, they should be responsible for finding more environmentally safe packaging. I’m tired of the consumer being made to feel responsible.

    • Sarah Smith on March 2, 2020 at 10:04 pm

      I agree, when you look at packaging how many recycling symbols are there?

      There are about 30+ different symbols, and does every consumer know what they are?
      The answer is NO, there is way too many?

      When I’ve looked into it there is a green dot recycling symbol, with a number, out of those 9 numbers, 2 are not recycling.

      Sometimes on packaging no symbols?
      Some packaging has half the packaging recycling the other half not, and sometimes you would need a knife to cut it all off?

      Food industry coffee cups and Takeway where they have moved to cardboard, however it lined with plastic, and they need to go to a special recycling plant that can remove the plastic?

      This all makes it very confusing?

      Does every item that reaches the depot get checked? I would say not, as how can they sift through that much rubbish and have someone cutting off the bits of plastic that aren’t recyclable?

      I feel the whole thing is Making us feel like we are doing the right thing, but for most we are probably causing problems at the recycling plant, with lack of teaching?

      However should this really be all fully our responsibility? NO

      The government need to act because quite frankly, I’m dubious ?

    • Christine Sweeney on April 7, 2021 at 1:37 pm

      Some decent ideas here BUT they cannot be used as hand or pot scrubs, nor as washing machine bags. This is because they then release micro plastic particles into our water table, which is extreme bad for the environment. In landfill they are at least buried and locked into soil where they cannot release their toxic particles, especially as landfill is not allowed near water tables. I’d love the article to be updated to say this please.

      • Rachelle Strauss on April 13, 2021 at 2:22 pm

        Thanks for your comment, Christine. I’ve updated the relevant sections with your concerns 🙂

  2. Sarah on September 17, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    I agree with Elliot. I use mine as part of art projects. Ive used them as part of colourful decorative windsocks that go in the garden.

  3. Jenny on November 19, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    I have some green plastic netted wood bags that I just can’t bear to put in the bin so I am going to try & cut them into strips to make Christmas ribbons for my wrapping & hopefully use them again & again 🤞🏼

  4. Christopher B. on January 4, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Making scrubbers out of these things is a terrible idea and the article should say that sooner (since most people will stop reading after the first suggestion or two and think the article endorses this use). Using these as scrubbers is TERRIBLE for the environment.

    • Rachelle Strauss on January 4, 2021 at 12:22 pm

      Thanks for speaking up, Christopher. I’ve now amended the article, based on your thoughts.

  5. Ali on February 18, 2021 at 9:14 pm

    Another ridiculous thing about these plastic netting bags is that they used to be made out of fibre – probably cotton, which would be compostable/biodegradable. If the supermarkets are so keen to cut out plastic, this would be an easy change to make, you would hope!

  6. Tracy on March 18, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    I use one to put small items safely through the dishwasher. Put a clip in the open end or tie up the end. Occasionally I put jewelry through the dishwasher and the net keeps it safe and together. I agree their use should be discontinued. I like the idea of re using them when buying fresh veg. All plastics should be recycled as a finite resource.

    • Rachelle Strauss on March 18, 2021 at 10:30 pm

      What an innovative idea, Tracy – thanks for sharing 🙂

  7. Charlene Woods on February 22, 2022 at 9:13 pm

    They should be completely banned. They are the worst plastic packaging there is – bad for the environment and very dangerous for wildlife. It’s impossible to open them to get the fruit out without tiny bits ending up everywhere, floors, worktops, and stuck to the fruit skins. I hate that they end up on my floor to be picked up on my cat’s paws and then ingested. I started opening the bags in the sink and then rinsing off the fruit after binning the bag. But doing that leaves the tiny bits in the sink, which then end up in the waste water. What purpose do they serve that any other solution couldn’t do better? It’s easy not to choose onions in the bags since they are cheaper to buy loose or in normal bags. But citrus fruits sold loose at my supermarket are much more expensive than the bagged ones, so I feel I have no choice. I wrote to The Co-op (the only supermarket where I live), to complain about it, but didn’t receive a reply. I don’t understand why these horrible mesh bags are never mentioned when plastic packaging is being discussed,

    • Rachelle Strauss on February 23, 2022 at 6:21 pm

      I hear you Charlene, every time I cut open one of those bags I worry about the tiny slivers of plastic on my work surfaces and floor (likewise I have a curious cat in the house)!

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