DIY: Make kitty litter bags from newspaper

Plastic bags are a precious commodity in my house. In the past few years, we’ve settled into the reusable bag groove and hardly ever miss a beat these days. Nothing changed when San Jose banned the bag at the beginning of this year. Our remaining plastic bags come from the odd produce bag (we don’t always remember to bring our reusables, and some things like green beans and cherries can’t really go in the bag loose), my mom (who likes to give me food and thinks I am too skinny — yes, she’s Asian), and bags that food came in (bread, potato chips, frozen vegetables).

We definitely don’t have enough for me to use one every day to clean Brie’s litter, so I came up with another solution a while ago: origami kitty litter bags. Oh yeah. Green, meet the ancient art of paperfolding.

A few years ago, I was really into origami. I think my crowning achievement may have been the two headed crane (two heads plus a tail and wings, made from a single square piece of paper). It’s still hanging from the mirror on Kevin’s car. The fold that I use for cat litter bags is traditionally known as a cup fold. It will actually hold water if you use sturdy paper and chug. But even better, it’s quick and easy, reuses materials, and biodegrades (or would, if you use non-clay cat litters and our landfills let things biodegrade). I find it especially satisfying to fold up an annoying politician’s photo and use it for cat excrement.

This is just about the simplest origami fold I know, and one of the most useful. Observe.

Step 1: Take a full sheet of newspaper. The San Francisco Chronicle is very close to square, which makes things easier. Notice the original vertical fold. We’ll need it later.

Step 2: Fold in half along the diagonal. You’ll notice that the top and side corners are slightly offset because the paper isn’t perfectly square.

Step 3: Bring the right corner up. This step requires a little eye-balling, but you’re basically looking for the bottom of the right corner to be parallel with the original vertical fold of the newspaper.

Step 4: Turn it over and bring the left corner up. You can adjust if things aren’t lining up well at this point.

Step 5: Fold down just the top layer. Turn it over and fold down the other side.

Done! You should now have a pocket in which to deposit all the lovely leavings of your favorite feline. Attention: this fold stays together best if you pull it wide apart (the mouth should look square or diamond shaped) while putting things in it. That locks everything into place.

Once you know what you’re doing (and this is by no means rocket science), it takes 5-10 seconds to make one, as long as the cat doesn’t come over and sit on your newspaper. (I sometimes leave out a sheet of extra newspaper just so the cat can sit on it and leave me alone.) On Sunday, the only day on which we get a newspaper, I sit down, pull out my least favorite sections, and make a stack of kitty litter bags for the week to come. Even if you don’t get a newspaper regularly, you probably have a neighbor who does and would be happy to share.

You won’t save the planet doing this, but if your plastic bag drawer is empty, it’s a reasonably green solution. Dog owners, I apologize, but I’ve got nothing for you.

About these ads

20 responses to this post.

  1. Love this idea! I take reusable bags to the store plus my husband and I sell produce from our farm at a farmers market, so we use any plastic bags we can get our hands on (we refuse to buy them) for our customers. So I’m always on the lookout for ways to dispose of the kitty litter scoopings. I’m going to share this on my blog!

    Reply

    • Thanks, Cherie! I think we should see plastic as a precious commodity and use it wisely for applications that really require its durability and elasticity. Not so much bags for carrying food (or kitty litter).

      Reply

  2. Posted by EcoCatLady on 08/22/2012 at 16:47

    That’s fantastic! Newspaper is actually a scarce commodity around here since I haven’t subscribed to a paper in over 10 years – so I scavenge in the alley and keep the weekly circulars that arrive in the mail.

    In terms of kitty litter, I have taken the slightly more crazy option, and I actually compost it. Before you freak out, I don’t use the compost on food crops, just flowers.

    Reply

    • Hi Cat,

      Kevin got suckered into the Sunday Chronicle by a neighborhood kid who must have been quite persuasive. This was a few years ago — we’ve come to rather enjoy our slow, low-tech Sunday mornings with the paper spread out all over the table. I suppose the greenest thing to do would be to cancel the subscription and ask our neighbors for their papers when they’re done!

      Composting cat feces scares me a bit. Brie has had toxoplasmosis, and even though she really should not be passing oocytes any more, otters get toxo from freshwater run-off from the land. I’m not sure composting destroys oocytes, and I live near enough to the ocean that it would be a concern for me. Oh, well, and the fact that I don’t have any outdoor space to begin with!

      Reply

      • Posted by EcoCatLady on 08/25/2012 at 12:12

        I’ve read that if you compost it for 18 months it’s safe, but I’m not sure exeactly what that means. But I think your concern is quite reasonable thing given the toxoplasmosis diagnosis and your proximity to the ocean. I haven’t actually had my cats tested so I don’t know if they’re carriers or not, but since the neighborhood is literally awash in stray cats who do their business in every flowerbed you can mention, I figure it’s probably a wash environmentally speaking.

        Reply

        • Hi Cat,

          Yeah, it probably is. I think cats only pass oocytes for a few days before the parasite completes its life cycle and goes dormant for the rest of the cat’s life, but if you have a large stray cat population, some cat is probably shedding them at any given time. Toxoplasmosis is fascinating. Apparently rats infected with toxo are more attracted to cats, so they end up getting eaten, which transfers the parasite to the cat, which is the only animal in which it can reproduce. Seems to have some effects on human brains, too.

          Reply

  3. What an elegant solution!

    Reply

  4. Posted by Jen on 08/23/2012 at 08:01

    This is great. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make garbage bags from paper since my town requires that we bag all garbage that goes in the bins. I can’t use it for kitty litter in the summer since I use pine pellets that turn to wet sawdust but in the winter it will work great since it will freeze as soon as I put it outside.

    Reply

    • Hi Jen,

      How do you scoop the pine pellets? They’re way too big for my current scoop (my friend bought the wrong type, and since she did it as a favor, I felt obliged to try it). I alternate between the wheat stuff and a combination of the corn and pine (more like sawdust than pellets). I think these will work okay for bagging, though I don’t know how well they stay shut. When I’m ready to toss, I fold the top in half and roll down, but it’s definitely not a secure closure.

      Reply

  5. Posted by Andrea on 08/23/2012 at 13:17

    Love it! Now all I need is a newspaper source (I don’t subscribe)… maybe go around to coffee shops at the end of the day and ask if I can take a couple of sections home since they’ll just be tossed anyway?

    Thanks also for the tip about setting aside an extra sheet of newspaper. In my case, two, one for each of my cats. What is it with cats and sitting on paper, anyway? :)

    Reply

    • Hi Andrea,

      I don’t see why coffee shops would object. Freecycle would be a good place to ask, if you don’t have neighbors who subscribe. Newspapers may stop existing eventually, but for now, they’re readily available.

      Dunno what causes the magical attraction between cats and newspaper. I think the crinkle is part of it, as is the not having to sit on the cold floor bit. If you have playful cats, they might try to help you with the folding. Brie is content to sit close by and supervise.

      Reply

  6. Great idea! I’ve been struggling with this problem for some time, but hadn’t thought of newspapers as a solution. I have the same problem in terms of finding a good source for them, but it’s an easier solve. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply

    • Hi Beth,

      Hmm…places to score newspapers could include cafes, Freecycle, neighbors, doctor’s offices, senior / community centers. Maybe even the newspaper company would be willing to let you have yesterday’s papers. I’m estimating that I could make at least thirty bags out of just the Sunday paper, so I don’t think it’d be too hard to go a couple months before hunting down some more newspaper.

      Reply

  7. Inventive post. I live in the mountains and the cats go who-knows-where to lay their turds, so I’m lucky. But the paper pockets could be used for all sorts of things, so still good value, thanks.

    As a swap, I’ve found a great use for empty 5-litre water bottles (apart from refilling them at the spring); I found two abandoned kittens, aged about 4 weeks. They didn’t like the official cat box, so I cut off the top (opening) end of a water bottle (so it was just a round plastic ‘box’); lined it with some fake-fur pet bedding, put another bit of fake fur over the top to make it dark and cave-like (securing the pedding with bulldog clips), and bingo – perfect for two scared little cats. In due course they’ll have one each. When they grow out of them I’ll move on to 10-litre bottles…

    Reply

  8. Great idea! I can think of a thousand uses for this trik!

    Reply

  9. This is a great idea – thanks so much for sharing! I’ve just started blogging and plan to talk a lot about environmental solutions such as this. They may seem small to some, but little by little it all adds up, right? I have a million (or so it seems) plastic bags… but not from me. People give them to me because I crochet them into bigger, reusable bags (will be blogging and posting pics about this). I love this idea of yours… my Dad brings us his Sunday newspapers each weekend and I refuse to use the plastic anymore – I used to use one every day just to keep the litter clean – yikes! Awareness made a huge change in our lives!

    Reply

  10. This is a very interesting post. I had never heard about how to make for kitten, litter bags from newspaper, so I’m gonna share this with my friends that love and have cats. It’s important to try to understand this kind of action because it will help the world! For the enviroment I would try to do it for my cat. Thank you for show me, with this post, a simple solution for this problem. It will minimize the efects of polution in the Earth, even just a little. But, if everyone do little things like that, we will have a better place to live.

    Reply

  11. This is such a fab idea! Really great solution. :)

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,818 other followers

%d bloggers like this: