You’ve seen it in the news many times over the past few years, but it still continues. Cadmium, lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium are not household names, but if you have any of those nice graphic reusable grocery bags, chances are good those dangerous and illegal heavy metals are in your house.
Recent articles in USA Today, the Tampa Bay Tribune and others have sparked calls for a Federal review.
The problem as well as the solution is quite simple, and is the same thing.
How does lead get into a reusable grocery bag?
While here in the US we have laws and controls which prohibit the use of heavy metals, the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t extend into the Asian world. These metals are typically used in mixing colorants for inks and dies in plastics like Polypropylene and PET (yes those reusable bags are really a form of plastic) typically by low-cost Asian printers and converters who are not willing or have not been forbidden to use these compounds in the products they make and sell to customers in the US.
The only way to tell if your reusable grocery bag contains lead is to have it analyzed by an expensive test. Unscrupulous Asian manufacturers use inks containing heavy metals to keep their costs down and/or to avoid changing to water based inks like we use in the US. Inks, dies and colorants used anywhere in the US and Canada do not contain heavy metals or are well under the federal limits. See the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse for more information.
What does Nashville Wraps do to prevent lead in bags?
First of all, we take it seriously and assume nothing from our suppliers. We specify that all our products conform to state and Federal laws concerning heavy metals and therefore any packaging we sell has gone through a process of documentation and testing (yes even that expensive Fluorescent X-Ray test) to ensure the safety and confidence of our customers.
What about those bags made from recycled drink bottles?
While we think it’s a great concept to make bags out of recycled drink bottles, shipping them across the ocean to be processed, extruded, sewn, printed, cartoned and shipped back across the ocean never has made any sense to us. Then they wind up in the news due to heavy metal contamination. We have seen case after case of lead in these bags for the past several years. We are NOT saying that all these bags are a problem, far from it… it’s just that there are no real controls because they are made outside of the United States.
Why do grocers continue to sell these problematic reusable bags?
A bag which you have been buying for $1 at the grocery store costs the chain grocer about 25 cents…do the math on that times a few million. Those large graphically intense shopping bags made from recycled drink bottles which you may pay upwards of $2.00 for only cost the retailer about 50 cents. So it is a profit center for the grocers and large retailers. The same product made in the US would cost twice as much because US printers and converters have put in place more expensive environmental controls for employees and the environment.
What is a good solution for reusable bags?
Without reopening the argument between paper and plastic bags, the simplest solution is for grocers and retailers to buy their packaging from manufacturers based in the United States or Canada who are all equipped to produce quality products free of heavy metal contamination.
In the United States we have tough environmental laws which prohibit the use of any listed heavy metal (cadmium, lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium) in packaging, toys, clothing and other manufactured goods, laws which have been in place for years.
Nashville Wraps has other innovative solutions for reusable, recyclable and recycled packaging of all types, and we will be happy to share more information on this topic. A good place to start is our Green Way – Packaging with Purpose web page. Green Way® is a brand of true environmentally friendly packaging which sets a high standard.