Plastic bags are a hot topic, to say the least. Is it more harmful to the environment to keep using plastic bags or ban them? What about paper bags? And how many tote bags do you REALLY need?
Since 2007, over 240 cities and counties have passed laws banning the use of plastic bags. Studies comparing bag use in cities with bans, to those without them, have shown that people in cities with the ban used fewer plastic bags, leading to close to 40 million fewer pounds of plastic trash per year. However, people who choose to reuse their shopping bags for other purposes still needed bags. This resulted in sales of garbage bags, and other heavier and larger plastic alternatives, to skyrocket.
Many studies have shown that paper bags can actually be worse for the environment than their plastic counterparts. The uptick in the paper manufacturing process, mixed with the increased purchasing of larger plastic bags, actually shows an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
At least we have tote bags, right?! Unfortunately, there are a lot of environmental impacts involved in the process of manufacturing a cotton tote bag that go overlooked. Studies have shown you would have to use an organic cotton bag 20,000 times more than a plastic grocery bag to make using it better for the environment…
This all seems pretty bleak, what can I do? The best thing you can do is simply reduce the amount of single-use items you are using. All those extra tote bags you have? Drop them off at our bag tree! Make use of the box bank, and give those boxes a second use. If you don’t need a bag, don’t get one! The plastic bag controversy is just a symptom of a much larger global issue. If we want to reduce plastic consumption, we need to start by looking at our personal impacts.