Reusable Tote Or Plastic Bag: Which One Is More Threatening To The Environment?

Have you given up using plastic in your daily life? Well, that’s not a very smart thing to do. And yes, you read that right!

Plastic bags have been banned by many countries in recent years because of their negative impact on the environment. They’ve been replaced by reusable tote bags since they’re degradable. And if you’re wondering what tote bags are, they’re those fancy-looking eco-friendly cloth-type bags we use while going out for grocery shopping. Apart from carrying groceries, a nice reusable tote bag can be used for many other reasons. But, did you know there’s a whole world of mystery surrounding these harmless-looking bags?

If you’re someone who’s been trapped by the notion that plastic bags are always harmful, there are a lot of things you need to know. All the different types of bags available out there are harmful in some or the other way. We’ve compared these types which may help you get a clear idea of which one to choose.

Are paper bags better than cotton totes?

Paper bags are biodegradable and reusable, but a lot of trees need to be cut down for making them. According to the Washington Post analysis, the process of making paper bags is more toxic and responsible for 70 times more air pollution and 50 times more water pollution than plastic bag production. Transporting and distributing paper bags require more fuel and cost, as compared to plastic bags. Plus, paper bags can usually not be reused quite a lot.

Cotton totes, on the other hand, can be used for a very long period. Organic cotton bags can be used almost 20,000 times. And although Danish and U.K studies have shown that cotton tote bags have some severe effects on the environment (cotton needs huge quantities of water, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides to grow), if the techniques are modified, the effects can also be reduced.

But every coin has two sides and cotton bags too come with their share of negatives. These bags can carry bacteria and other germs and they survive on cotton for more than three days. To avoid the spread of these harmful bacteria, you need to wash the cotton bags with hot water frequently.

How harmful are plastic bags to the environment?

The answer to this question depends on what kind of plastic bags you’re using. Some plastic bags are made of HDPE (high-density polyethylene) and some are made of low-density polyethylene. It has been found that plastic bags made of HDPE use less water and fuel, and produce lesser greenhouse gas gases, and solid waste.

As long as you don’t litter plastic bags frequently, these are quite easy and light to use. If plastic bags are littered all around the streets and are washed into the ocean, they’re consumed by marine life, and the internet is full of horrific videos which depict the effects of plastic on the poor fish.

Plastic bags aren’t recyclable and they take approximately 1,000 years to break down into pieces. Once a product made of plastic hits the waste stream, it is there forever.

All in all

Bag choices can be really hard to predict, but every bag has its importance and side-effect. The best way to reduce your impact is to use less and reuse as often as possible. The more you use a bag, the less environment-impacting it becomes. Hence, take care of your bags, reuse them as much as you can, and don’t collect more than you need.

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