By Ariel Yong
She goes by the name, “The Recycled Bag Lady.” Mary Pike makes reusable plastic bags out of recycled plastic bags. After a friend gifted her one about ten years ago, Pike learned to crochet and decided to start making them her own way. She sells her bags at the Arlington Farmers Market on Saturday mornings at the Upper Crust Bakery tent, which is run by her friend Chris Giradot.
“Most people don’t know what they are,” Pike says. “Obviously they are an attempt to look like a European string bag. But when people realize they are made out of plastic, they are usually very intrigued by them.”
Pike said each bag is made up of about 35 bags “so they’re extremely sturdy.” The bags are 9 x 9 inches to start but stretch after multiple uses and can be machine-washed. In addition to serving as shopping bags, she said her recyclable bags can also be used as beach, gift or toy bags. Pike uses different colored bags and ones with printings on them to give her finish product a unique look that is still 100 percent recycled.
“I try never to get plastic bags myself,” Pike said. “But people give them to me [and] now I actually have quite a few people that give me whatever bags they get.”
Pike’s bags aren’t the only reusable bag options at the Arlington Farmers Market. Susan Hunt of Westmoreland Berry Farm & Market went to a strawberry-growers conference and saw ones that can be folded up into strawberry-like pouches. Hunt said the strawberry bags are popular “because they’re so cute” in addition to being reusable and easy to carry.
Customers can buy the reusable strawberry bags at Westmoreland Berry Farm & Market’s tent at the farmers market, but Hunt said they also give them away after a minimum purchase of a certain number of items due to market regulations. According to Hunt, “some farmers markets are producer-only and you can only sell what you grow” so the business gives the bags away to encourage people to use less plastic.
“I think [using recyclable bags] started out as a trend, but I think of it as getting back to the way things were originally done,” Hunt said. “It started off with farm market baskets that people used to use and then they went to disposable bags and now they’re getting back to that. So yes it’s a trend but it’s also just getting back to the way we should do things. I would say a significant portion [of people] now have reusable bags with them. People hesitate to take plastic.”
Hunt said they’re searching for the reusable bags that can be folded up into blueberries and pumpkins.