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Are reusable cloth bags really better for the planet?

everyone talks about owning many reusable cloth bags. some of them boast about how they have switched up to a plastic free alternative. but, what’s the deal with these cloth bags? are reusable cloth bags really better for the planet?

what are reusable cloth bags?

reusable cloth bags are bags made from cotton, jute, hemp or linen – a natural fibre based product. these have been around for a long time – in it’s current shape as a tote (the most common type) or just as a simple piece of cloth that was wrapped and tied into a bag. the japanese turned this into an art form and the art of folding cloth into bags is called furoshiki and it dates back centuries.

how many plastic bags is too many?

plastic bags were given away for free whenever you shopped. no one blinked an eye when the till assistant packed 3/5 things in each bag and kept pulling out bag after bag. it seemed like an endless supply of bags. and yes, that’s right. it was an endless supply.

the main retailers in england issued 7.6 billion (7,60,00,00,000) single use carrier bags in the calendar year 2014, before the plastic bag charge.

wrap.org.uk

after the introduction of the plastic bag charge of 5p, the number of plastic bags issue has dropped dramatically down to 1.1 billion bags. this is still a lot as a country and to put it in perspective, 20 plastic bags are issued per person in england.

what’s wrong with single-use plastic bags?

oh! where do I begin? as far as i am concerned, everything about it is wrong. there are very few occasions when you cannot do without these. but 99.9% of the time, these can be swapped out with a cloth bag.

here’s a list of issues caused by plastic bags:

  1. deers in richmond park have been found dead with plastic in their stomachs. a report from royal parks on deers in bushy park.
  2. over 1 million birds and marine animals die from plastic trash. an autopsy of the stomach of a beached whale found 20 square feet of plastic shopping bags that took up its whole stomach.
  3. Kamilo Beach in Hawaii is often buried in several feet of plastic bags that washes in from the sea.
  4. In bangladesh, after the 1998 floods, it was estimated that up to 80% of the city’s waterlogging was caused by polyethylene blocking drains. this causes diseases like malaria and dengue to spread.
  5. other land animals like camels, elephants and cows have all died because of eating plastic.

are reusable cloth bags the better alternative?

absolutely yes. Using less plastic is the name of the game here. Every plastic bag you avoid will make a difference, and every piece of plastic you don’t throw away might help save a life one day. we all have a duty to protect and look after this planet, don’t we?

cloth bags can be used, reused and enjoyed for a long time to come. and when the bag falls apart, cloth bags might be compostable.

the 2 types of cloth bags that will come in handy with your grocery shopping are the tote bags and the produce bags.

what are produce bags?

produce bags are smaller bags that you can use when you buy loose fruit & veg or loose dry goods. these bags are lightweight and you can pick, pack, weigh and store all in one go. if you want to reduce your plastic use and not shed microplastics all over your food, then these are the bags for you.

2 produce bags empty laid flat to help you with a eco friendly shopping.
100% unbleached cotton produce bags

why not recycled plastic bags?

you would have seen or bought the recycled plastic net bags that the supermarkets sell near the fruit & veg aisle. or you might have bought a recycled plastic bag. these are better than the single-use plastic bags. no doubt about that. but the problem is that these bags it will shed microplastics when you use it and when you wash it. microplastics are just as bad for humans and for animals. microplastics are microscopic pieces of plastic and they enter our food chain rather too easily. so, as far as i am concerned, these bags are not for me and i wouldn’t recommend them if you want a healthier life.

further reading

gov.uk statistics on plastic bags – summary report

microplastics and all there is to know about it – Britannica on microplastics

why are cloth bags better than plastic?

Environmental Impact. Effects, Dangers of Plastic Bags

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