Every time I go to the grocery I take an impromptu poll on people that bring their reusable grocery bags. It’s about 20% now at Publix depending on which clerk you ask. Last year it was 15%.
Remember when activist groups were freaking out over “billions of plastic bags”? So now we have billions of those cloth-like, non-woven polypropylene bags that 8 out of 10 people don’t reuse. And these things are all imported, not helping our jobs at home; have 17 times the carbon footprint as regular bags and are NOT recyclable. What’s a mother to do?
What about cotton?
If you are considering cotton as an environmentally sound alternative, think again. Because of the number of processes that cotton has to go through to become the bag you carry to the grocery, it is over 300 times more environmentally intensive than a single-use plastic grocery t-shirt bag. Follow me for a minute: Cotton requires heavy fertilization; most is grown on foreign soil now; it requires mechanical harvesting, baling, transporting to the gin, and processing the seeds out (ginning); then it is warehoused, then sent to the weavers, then to a distributor, then to a sewing factory, then to another distributor, then across the ocean to a 3rd distributor, then shipped to you. Whew. And that’s the short version!
Which bag is best for the environment anyway?
There have been many recent studies comparing the energy, pollution, water and carbon releases for producing the four most common types of bags in use. One by the British government which has been widely accepted is illustrated here in a pdf format you can download: Plastic vs. Cotton Reusable Bags
The view is changing regarding plastic bags. Local and state governments are reconsidering their once-toxic views regarding PE bags (regular polyethylene plastic bags) and now the sentiment isn’t so much against plastic as it is against single-use bags. Therefore it makes a lot of sense from an environmental and economic standpoint to move back to square one with domestic paper and reusable plastic bags.
Plastic is let off the hook
Even the 2011 ban in LA County, CA isn’t really a ban of plastic. In fact, it was tailored for plastic bags, just “reusable” ones. Under the new legislation, a reusable bag can be made from plastic if it is 2.25 mil or thicker, can be reused 125 times (yes there is a test for that) and will hold 15 liters of volume.
So which bags work?
While almost all of Nashville Wraps’ Plastic Shopping Bags are made to be reusable and even legal in California, we are not stopping there. Consumers want them to have a lasting “feel”. So as usual, we will be bringing many smart solutions to the table very soon. The picture at the beginning of this article (above) is a preview of one of our USA Reusable bags made from 100% recycled, renewable polyethylene. It is much thicker than most plastic bags, and passes all tests and concerns with flying (red, white and blue) colors!