The world is consuming hundreds of billions of plastic bags annually. In several locations around the world, plastic bag prohibitions or fees have been implemented to reduce the number of single-use bags that are discarded. However, are reusable bags or paper bags significantly more environmentally friendly? The scientific evidence indicates that there is no straightforward solution.
How can a consumer make ethical purchasing decisions when health, the environment, and climate change are all vying for our attention? To answer this question, let's examine the two most common bag materials: plastic and canvas totes.
Canvas Totes and Plastic Bags' Life Cycle
Canvas tote bags are environmentally preferable to plastic ones. Due to their biodegradability, they can be used for activities such as decomposition and recycling. It takes nearly four times as much energy to produce a paper bag as a plastic bag, and the chemicals and fertilizers required to produce paper bags further harm the environment.
It takes anywhere from three to forty-three uses of a paper bag before the environmental impact of the paper bag is equivalent to that of a plastic bag. Paper bags are the least robust option. Therefore, it is unlikely that a single user would get enough use out of one bag to offset their negative environmental impact.
However, the ability to recycle paper mitigates some of its negative effects. In 2018, the percentage of paper recovered for recycling in the United States reached a record high of 68.1%, the greatest percentage ever recorded. Unfortunately, paper can only be recycled a limited number of times, as paper fibers become shorter and weakened with each recycling operation.
Canvas Shopping Bags
What qualifies as "eco-friendly" is subject to individual interpretation. Therefore, there is no accurate answer. To some, "environmentally friendly" means "does not pollute landfills, rivers, or oceans." Canvas backpacks are an excellent eco-friendly alternative for those who prefer not to use plastic.
Those who take a deeper look at the situation can define an eco-friendly product as one that reduces the planet's consumption of resources such as water, oxygen, fossil fuels, etc. One cotton canvas tote bag requires the same amount of energy as 400 plastic bags to produce.
Before a canvas bag can be considered more environmentally beneficial than a standard plastic bag, it must be reused thousands of times. In order for paper bags to be as eco-friendly as their plastic counterparts, they must be repurposed three times. Even more discouraging were the results regarding cotton totes: canvas totes require over 130 reuses to match the environmental impact of plastic bags.
Canvas Bags VS Plastic Bags
It depends on where they were manufactured and how long they will be utilized. Reusable solutions are preferable because their impact on the environment diminishes after a certain period of use.
The key to making a bag truly sustainable rests in our own hands; we can do this by avoiding single-use bags, choosing organic and fair-trade alternatives, and reusing everything we purchase. Consider the bag's durability; in other words, how robust is the bag you intend to purchase? How many times can the item be used before it wears out or breaks? Finally, a bag's sustainability score is improved if it can be composted without contributing to pollution at the end of its (hopefully) long existence.
Carrymintsa's eco-friendly carrier bags are constructed to be adaptable and resilient. These bags are durable and well-made, able to withstand daily use and hefty loads. You can rely on them for a variety of purposes, including grocery shopping, carrying books, and conducting errands, because they are durable. Investing in a high-quality eco-friendly tote bag provides you with a durable and functional accessory that reduces your reliance on disposable bags.