Reusable shopping bags used at the grocery store and for other shopping trips have become commonplace. They are green, reusable and supposed to be environmentally friendly. But when it comes to reusable shopping bags all bags are not created equal. In fact, the majority of the “cloth” shopping bags on the market are plastic, made and shipped from China and contain toxic chemicals. Here is the scoop on your options for reusable bags and how to find bags that are truly environmentally friendly and made in USA.
The need for a reusable alternative to the traditional single use disposable plastic bag is obvious. Plastic shopping bags take up to 1,000 years to break down, and when they do, they contaminate our land and waterways. They require petroleum for production and are difficult to re-use. Recycling plastic bags is even more difficult. Due to prohibitively high costs, less than 5% of all plastic bags are ever recycled. When plastic bags are recycled, they are typically sent to China, where factory workers are exposed to the toxic fumes they release.
When you begin looking at plastic bag alternatives, the choices can be confusing. Most “green” reusable shopping bags are made in China, manufactured without environmental regulations and shipped thousands of miles using previous energy resources. These shopping bags are typically made to look like they are fabric, but in fact are plastic. Most bags are created from a type of plastic called polypropylene, which requires approximately 28 times the amount of energy required to created a disposable version. These shopping bags have also found to contain lead that leaches out into foods held inside the bag. They have been found to last only about two years under typical usage.
Looking for safer, more eco-friendly options for reusable shopping bags? Look for bags made from more sustainable materials, like canvas, cotton, hemp and bamboo. If you buy plastic reusable bags, look for those containing recycled content. Bags made from a form of recycled plastic called “PET”are available, made from things like old plastic soda bottles. Make sure to use the bags you accumulate. Don’t take a freebie or buy a cute reusable bag that you won’t use, it defeats the purpose of helping the environment. BulletinBag recommends a practice of stocking up on 2-3 bags per family member, with a few extra stored in the car or office for random shopping trips. Finally, look for bags made in USA. Not only do they support our economy, they are shipped a shorter distance, requiring less energy. Bags made in USA are also made under environmental standards not present in other countries like China.
Some places to find eco-friendly, made in USA reusable shopping bags:
Do you use reusable shopping bags? What are your favorite brands? How do you choose amongst the plethora of options available today for reusable shopping bags? Do you have a favorite brand made in USA to share?