Zip-Top Plastic Bags Can And Should Be Reused For Leftovers

Did you know that almost 400 million tons of plastic are wasted every year? According to the World Economic Forum, that's the amount we're tossing in landfills worldwide, 40 million of which comes from the U.S. — but only about 2 million tons get recycled. Considering around 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide, there's a big opportunity for us to reuse and recycle them to keep our landfill waste as plastic-free as possible, per Plastic Oceans.

You may not immediately think of zip-top plastic bags as reusable, but you don't have to throw them away after each use. As long as you hand wash your bags and dry them completely before reusing them, they make the perfect vessel for storing leftovers again and again. Zip-top bags typically are good for about four or five extra uses — so not only are you helping the planet, but you're saving money by avoiding buying new bags quite as often. Just keep in mind that if you use them for anything that could be contaminated, like raw meat, fish, or eggs, you probably will want to toss them right away.

Hand wash and dry your zip-top bags

Another exception to keep in mind is that since some zip-top bags, like Ziplocs, are microwave safe, you can technically use them to cook or defrost food — but again, if you cook meat, chicken, eggs, or fish in them, you'll want to toss them after. Ziploc even makes Zip'n Steam Microwave Cooking Bags that have pre-made vents for steaming, but they won't be a good airtight solution for storing leftovers later on. And if you used the bags to hold food that someone in your house is allergic to, like nuts, a hand wash and dry might not be enough to fully get rid of the allergens.

For best results here, try using the freezer version of whatever brand of zip-top bag you're using. These are typically the most durable since they're meant to store food for a long period of time. You can wash them by hand and turn them inside out or even place them on the top rack of the dishwasher. But make sure to avoid ultra-hot water, which may end up melting the plastic or allowing the BPAs on it to seep into your food (via National Capital Poison Center).

Although reusing your zip-top bags is better than throwing them away instantly, it's still not a perfect solution since they don't last forever. If you want to go the extra mile, try buying reusable silicone bags from a brand like Stasher, which should last you several years.