Tote bags are the description for any product designed to carry shopping items out of a store. Traditionally, these bags are either made of plastic, paper or some from nylon. Tote bags were originally intended to be discarded after one-time usage. It is expected of the environmentally conscious global citizen to start relying on custom reusable tote bags instead of discarding them.
Here is why.
If your tote bag is constructed out of the flimsy plastic film, it might suffice for a one-time usage (twice if the load is light). However, it is not a sustainable product and will need to be discarded with trash and replaced very frequently. A tote bag constructed out of strong organic substances will have incredible strength until the day it is discarded, and these materials are degradable. I.e., they disintegrate within weeks of sunlight exposure. Polypropylene is a good material to make tote bags. Similarly, Nylon is also a popular material, which is also degradable.
There are companies that go one step further and make biodegradable carrying products, i.e., discarding them will allow their remains to be absorbed into the Earth rather than to obstruct it.
2. Plastic is bad
Now, this isn’t news to anyone. Plastic is inexpensive to manufacture while easy to discard. However, plastic is such a rigid polymer that it does not break down under the sun nor is it consumed by any known natural substance. Plastic constitutes 90% of the trash floating on Earth’s ocean surfaces. Which in turn kill a million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals every year. Plastic is also the key ingredient of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a garbage patch in the ocean that is twice the size of Texas.
In short, plastic is horrible for the environment, and even a small fraction is a burden on the environment.
3. Paper isn’t any better
One might think that in the absence of plastic based products, degradable paper products might suffice. For starters, the paper also has limited strength and once punctured will bring the entire contents down with it, and is notoriously weak against water (simple condensation will render it useless). However, Paper products, though seemingly safe, are still taxing on the environment to create.
It takes 324 liters to make a single kg of paper. 93% of paper comes from trees; the rest gets recycled. To print the entire Sunday edition of The New York Times, it takes 75,000 trees! Most importantly, paper packaging makes up for 1/3rd of the average trash.
4. Organizations need to give their support
Large organizations, such as Whole Foods encourages you to purchase a large bag from them that you can bring back with you the next time you visit the store. More chains are starting to adapt this model to help reduce the global trash output. This comes with the added advantage of having their branding hang around a house at all times.
It all boils down to the people. If we opt to reuse our tote bags than to constantly recycle them, we could save a lot of money, time and most critically, start saving the environment.