Plastic-Free DIY Produce Bags

As CalRecycle’s Executive Fellow, I have been learning a lot about waste management here in California. It’s been an eye-opening experience to learn just how much waste Californians produce: 76.5 million tons in 2016 alone. With my newfound knowledge, I have been making a deliberate effort to reduce my own environmental impact and limit my use of single-use plastics and disposable packaging.

Although California banned the distribution of single-use carryout bags in grocery stores in 2016, the law does not prohibit the distribution of all plastic bags. I still see plastic produce bags widely available at grocery stores. Even at the local farmers markets in Sacramento, I get offered a plastic bag for my produce at every stall I visit. I used to wash and reuse my plastic produce bags, but since coming to CalRecycle I have made an effort to be more thoughtful about what materials I choose to utilize and purchase.

With that in mind, I decided to make my own cloth produce bags. For my fabric, I bought pillowcases from a local thrift store—an inexpensive and recycled material! Another great thing about using pillowcases is that there are finished seams already sewn in, so you can simply stich up one or two sides by hand, with no sewing machine required. If you are unsure how to hand-sew, there are plenty of helpful tutorials available for free on YouTube.

Plastic Free DIY Produce Bags, Adapted from Zero Waste Chef


  • Pillowcases
  • Needle and thread
  • Fabric scissors


  1. Cut the pillowcase into four equal rectangles. Try not to worry if they aren’t perfectly even.
  2. Your four rectangles should each have at least one finished seam. Simply pick which side you want the opening to be, and sew up the remaining sides.
  3. Visit your local farmers market or grocery store, sporting your new, plastic-free produce bag!

It’s that easy! There are many more tutorials available online if you want to get creative and add extra features to your produce bags such as drawstrings and carrying straps.

— Allegra Curiel
Posted on Aug 23, 2018

Summary: I decided to make my own cloth produce bags. Here's how...