Every year roughly 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. With only 1 in 7 of these being recycled, the majority of this non-biodegradable plastic waste ends up in the oceans or landfills, which has proven to be detrimental to the environment and marine life. According to The National Geographic Society, here is what you can do to help!
Interestingly, the production process of paper bags carries the lowest toll on the environment. They are most commonly made from high-density polyethylene. So even though producing plastic bags requires resources like petroleum, it results in fewer carbon emissions, waste, and harmful byproducts than cotton or paper bag production.
Many do not know that plastic bags are, in fact, recyclable. On top of this, many cities do not offer curbside recycling for plastic bags because they fly away in recycling plants and get stuck in machinery. But many large-scale retailers offer bag recycling services, where these services are dependent on the consumer bringing the plastic bags back to the store.
Unfortunately, most of these bags become litter and break down into microplastics, filling up landfills and endangering many facets of the environment, including marine life, the food chain, and urban air quality.
While you should try to skip the plastic bag or bring your own, if you end up with one, reuse it as many times as you can before recycling it!
Paper bags do have some advantages over plastic bags when it comes to sustainability. They are easier to recycle, and because they are biodegradable, they can be used for purposes like composting. However, paper is very resource-heavy to produce: Manufacturing a paper bag takes about four times as much energy as it takes to make a plastic bag. The chemicals and fertilizers used in producing paper bags create additional harm to the environment.
Studies have shown that, for a paper bag to neutralize its environmental impact compared to plastic, it would have to be reused anywhere from three to 43 times. But since paper bags are not durable, this is very unlikely.
Reusable bags are made from many different materials, and the environmental impact of producing those materials varies widely. One study from the United Kingdom found that, regarding bag production, cotton bags have to be reused 131 times before they reduce their impact on climate change to the same extent as plastic bags.
Many would assume that cotton bags are the most sustainable option; however, this is not always the case. These bags have an immense environmental upfront cost. There is nothing wrong with a cute, sturdy tote bag to run your daily errands, but you need to ensure you are getting the right one. You should opt for durable, locally made, recycled materials, or organic cotton bags and stay away from nylon, polyester or canvas materials! Brands like EcoBags, Baggu, and The Market Bag have the most trendy, reusable and sustainable bags for your everyday life. Supporting and investing in these brands will be your best bet in reducing your carbon footprint drastically without you even knowing it! The perfect sturdy reusable bag or tote will prevent the waste of hundreds of single use plastics ones in our landfills and oceans.
Ultimately, since reusable and paper bags have a substantial environmental cost in production, and plastic bags create more significant negative effects once they are discarded, it is hard to determine which type of bag is truly the most sustainable. Overall, making an effort to reuse any bag that comes into your possession, and disposing of the bag responsibly, is critical. For reusable bags, it is important to know how your bag is made and with what materials it is composed of. Always look for organic, natural and recycled materials for the most environmentally friendly, and long lasting options.
Via ÀLA.HAUSSE‘s Multi-functional and Multi-purposeful Fashion Ecosystem- BUY/SELL/RENT/LEND/ (swap BETA 2021) mobile application, INDIVIDUALS & brands (BETA 2021) are encouraged to REBUY, RESELL, REUSE and UP-CYCLE their personal “Closets” aka Clothing Assets, along with overstock inventory and samples. Through this consumerism habit shift we indirectly slow down the urgency on fashion’s carbon footprint, aiding sustainability as a whole.
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