Confused about the different types of reusable bags? Read on.
*The countdown is on. On July 1st 2018, light-weight single use plastic bags will no longer be available from checkouts in Western Australia.*
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I was at the local market recently and purchased a pot plant. The lady at the stall looked at me, laden down with all the baby and kid gear that gets dragged along on these outings, and kindly asked, “are you sure you want to take it now? I’d love to give you something to carry it in, but…you know…no plastic bags.”
While single use plastic bags are not the most common source of litter, they are not biodegradable. According to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, it is the harmful impact on the environment, marine wildlife in particular, that has pushed support for the ban.
If you’re like me, you’re a bit confused about all the different types of reusable bags (how is a polyester bag environmentally friendly?), and a bit suspicious of the replacements being provided by retailers (thicker plastic ‘department store’ style bags have not been banned).
So what are your greenest grocery carting options?
If you’re lucky, you’re local community may have already implemented Boomerang Bags. These are reusable bags made from recycled materials by volunteers in the community. (For more information or to get involved visit http://boomerangbags.org/.)
If you’re not so lucky, check out Pinterest and Youtube for instructions on how to make your own reusable bag from old recycled clothes or material.
Not keen on making your own? Check out my:
Quick Guide To: How Green Is That Bag?
Following are some of the more common materials used to make reusable bags.
Jute: 100% biodegradable and recyclable. Jute crops also consume large amounts of carbon dioxide and enrich the soil for further use. (1)
Cotton: 100% biodegradable and recyclable. While there isn’t a great deal of difference in quality between organic and regular cotton products, organic cotton crops are grown without chemicals and pesticides that harm the environment. (2)
Canvas: Made from natural fibres. Biodegradable. Robust enough to withstand years of reuse. (3)
Polyester: Polyester is a type of plastic. As it is usually made from same material as plastic bottles (PET) so it is recyclable but not biodegradable. Classed in the eco-friendly category as it is a sturdy material, giving these bags long term reusability. Often an attractive, budget friendly option for people who wouldn’t usually buy reusable bags. (4)
Recycled PET: Recycled plastic. Very similar attributes to polyester in terms of durability, but requires far less energy to manufacture. (4)
Polypropylene: These are the reusable bags you often find at supermarket checkouts. Can be woven or non-woven. Bags branded as eco-friendly are often made from recycled materials. Not biodegradable. Non-woven bags can be recycled. Cheap and strong. (5)
Important things to note:
This should be without saying, but reusable bags need to be reused in order to be environmentally friendly. There are various facts and figures out there about this point, but the general consensis seems to be that, in terms of your carbon footprint, you are better off accepting a single use plastic bag than buying new ‘green’ bags at the checkout everytime you forget to bring the ones you already have.
Choose sturdy, functional bags that you love and will use over and over again.
Choose bags with easy cleaning instructions. As with anything you cart around with you, reusable bags have the potential to pick up germs, especially if you have used them to carry meat.
Keep your bags somewhere where you won’t forget to take them with you!
(3) UTNE Reader
(4) Bulletin Bags
(5) Bag Factory