Plastic Bags vs Reusable Bags

What You Need to Know About Plastic Bags vs Reusable BagsWhat You Need to Know About Plastic Bags vs Reusable Bags

With all of the facts and figures thrown around there is a lot of information to wade through when deciding whether to use single-use plastic bags or reusable bags, and on some level it seems like such a small decision. A lot of people may ask themselves if it really matters what type of bag they use to carry groceries home but to be honest it does matter.

Every action, no matter how small has an impact and when you tally up all of the bags used over the course of a week, a month and even a year, a simple decision like what type of grocery bag to use can have a major impact. I've rounded up all of the info and put together a comparison of plastic and reusable bags. Keep reading to learn more.

The Plastic Bag Rundown

Disposable plastic bags consist of a thin film that is made from petroleum and natural gas, both of which are nonrenewable resources. The bags are lightweight which makes them ideal for toting items since you don’t want to be weighed down with the bag, and the film is durable. However, if the thin film develops a rip or tear that can quickly expand and render the bag pretty much useless.

It is common to find alternate uses for disposable plastic bags after the groceries are put away, but they have a limited lifespan because they are not designed for long-term use. Since disposable plastic bags are not biodegradable the responsible way to dispose of them is recycling. While there has been a ton of improvement in the adaptation of recycling, largely through targeted outreach programs, the rates are still somewhat low – about 12 percent of the single-use plastic bags handed out in the U.S. are recycled.

Disposable plastic bags that are not recycled will meet one of two fates, become litter or end up in a landfill. Both outcomes are a problem. Wayward plastic bags can damage ecosystems, wreak havoc on food chains and pose a major health risk to animals, especially if ingested. Marine animals and birds are most likely to suffer from single-use plastic bags flooding their habitats, but all animals are at risk.

The Reusable Bag Rundown

What You Need to Know About Plastic Bags vs Reusable BagsReusable shopping bags are more difficult to sum up definitely. These bags can be constructed from any number of materials, such as sustainable fabrics made from cotton, jute or bamboo, or even recycled plastics. Ultimately, to be considered a reusable bag it has to be durable enough to be used on a regular base for years. If a shopper accumulates five or six reusable shopping bags they are prepared to carry their groceries home without the use a plastic bags.

In order for reusable grocery bags to be effective you need to develop the habit of bringing your bags each and every time you shop. This can take some getting used to, and a lot of people will always stash their reusable bags in their car, or leave them by the front door or even jot a note of their shopping list to ensure they’re bags are close at hand when they need them. There are a lot of tricks to help create this habit.

Reusable shopping bags also require some care which makes sense given that a single bag can last for years. When not washed, reusable bags can contain and spread bacteria. When washed on a regular schedule reusable shopping bags are completely safe.

A Lot to Think About

To sum up disposable plastic bags: they are convenient due to their lightweight construction and they are readily available. However, they are made from nonrenewable resources and they are not biodegradable so they pose a serious risk to the environment and animals.

Reusable bags are more diverse but all reusable bags are durable and can be used again and again. Shoppers need to get into the habit of bringing their reusable bags and they must be washed from time to time, but reusable bags do not cause any of the environmental harm that disposable plastic bags cause.

What do you think? What is your bag of choice and why do you use them? Let us know in the comments!

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