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Plastic Bag Alternatives That Can Help You Reduce Daily Plastic Use

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You are probably already aware that plastic takes years to break down into microplastics that end up contaminating the environment and food courses. Plastic bags are a major part of this problem and one of the best ways to reduce daily plastic use is by kicking the plastic bag habit. While single use plastics are extremely convenient, the truth is they’re very harmful to the environment. 

So here are some of the best plastic bag alternatives that are not just eco friendly but sturdy enough for bagging groceries. All you need to do is to remember to bring them along when you go shopping. 

Jute bags

Jute bags are eco friendly and made from natural materials such as vegetable fibers. These fibers are spun into durable strong strands and formed into sturdy, great looking, fashionable bags. Jute bags can be commercially composted at the end of their life. 

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Advantages

  • Jute bags are 100% plastic free and made from naturally renewable resources
  • They are durable and can be used for a long time
  • You can use your jute bag until the material starts to fray. Old or damaged bags will break down into organic materials which are not harmful to the environment. 

Disadvantages

  • While they are washable, jute bags can be quite difficult to clean
  • Jute bags that have been treated with chemicals for moisture resistance may not be compostable. 

Paper bags

Paper bags are definitely eco friendly as they can be recycled. Many grocery stores now offer both plastic and paper bags, giving you the option to do your part for the environment when you are shopping. 

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Advantages

  • Paper bags are reusable for a number of times and can be recycled once they can’t be used anymore. 

Disadvantages

  • While they can be recycled, more fossil fuel is needed to manufacture paper bags that are produced using recycled fiber as compared to plastic bags
  • Paper bags lose their strength and tear easily if they get wet. To make sure that things do not fall out, many people double bag, which leads to an increase in paper waste. 
  • Compared to plastic bags, paper bags are heavier and bulkier. This results in higher transportation costs and waste disposal weight. 

If paper bags are not sturdy enough for the items that you are planning to buy, you might want to consider using a cardboard box. Cardboard boxes are perfect if you just need something to help you move things from the shop to your car. 

Although you may not look glamorous carrying them, you will definitely be doing your part for the environment. Cardboard boxes can be reused until they wear out and recycled once they can’t be used anymore. 

Cotton bags

Just like jute bags, cotton bags are made from natural fibers. However, cotton can be from a traditional, organic or recycled source. Traditional cotton comes from a renewable crop source but is treated with chemicals and pesticides while organic cotton is not. Both traditional and organic cotton can be recycled. 

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Advantages 

  • Cotton bags are very durable and can be used for hundreds of times before they start to fray.
  • Cotton bags are washable and easy to clean. You can even machine wash them. 

Disadvantages

  • More energy is needed to produce cotton bags as compared to plastic bags. They must be used plenty of times before the environmental footprint of the manufacturing process is evened out. 
  • Cotton bags can become dirty easily. As such, they should be cleaned regularly to prevent cross contamination, especially if you are using it to carry food items. 

String or mesh bags are also made from cotton. They are strong and very practical for grocery shopping. Additionally, because they are made with less material, are lightweight, easy to bring around and easy to store. You can even stash it in your handbag and use it for an unplanned shopping trip. Just make sure that you don’t put your keys or other small items in it because it’ll fall through the mesh! 

Reusable plastic bags

Reusable plastic bags are manufactured using recycled content or post industrial content and are usually at least 2.25mm thick. While they are recyclable, reusable plastic bags may not be accepted by curbside recyclers and need to be dropped off at recycling facilities instead. 

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Advantages 

  • As the name suggests, reusable plastic bags can be reused a number of times. According to some manufacturers, they can be used up to 125 times. Reusable plastic bags that are reused enough times will lower its environmental impact. 

Disadvantages

  • Although reusable plastic bags are meant to be reused, many people do not reuse them. These bags usually end up being thrown away before their lifespan is over and is counterproductive to what it was intended for. 

Compostable bags 

Compostable bags are designed to break down in a home composting environment or at a composting facility. They are made using renewable raw materials. 

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Advantages

  • Compostable bags can break down, thus leave a smaller environmental footprint. 
  • Compostable bags can be printed on using soy based inks. This means that its compostability will not be compromised. 

Disadvantages

  • Compostable bags can lose their strength if they are not kept properly in a cool, dark and dry place. Bags that are not properly stored will most likely end up having a limited shelf life. 
  • Compostable bags are easily mistaken for single-use plastic bags because they look very similar. 

Non woven bags

Non woven polypropylene (PP) bags are made from polypropylene plastic. So while they are not single use plastic bags, they are still made from plastic. 

Polypropylene plastic, or PP plastic, is one of the most extensively used plastics in the world. It is durable and able to withstand daily wear and tear. PP plastic has a high melting point and does not react to water or detergent so it doesn’t break down easily. 

This makes it a suitable material for numerous items from toys to automobile parts. The best part of polypropylene plastic is that it is a sustainable material that is entirely recyclable. 

Advantages

  • Non woven PP bags are very strong and durable which means that they can last for a long time.
  • They can be reused time and time again until they become damaged
  • It is washable so you will be able to easily clean it if it gets dirty. 
  • They are inexpensive

Disadvantages

Woven bags

Woven PP bags are usually made from recycled polypropylene plastics. The plastic material is stretched to be made into threads and then woven together to produce a fabric. The created fabric is then sewn together to form reusable woven bags. 

These bags can be dropped off at your recycling facility to be recycled when they are not in use anymore. 

Advantages

  • Woven PP bags are very strong and durable. They are made to last and can be reused many times.
  • They are washable.

Disadvantages

  • Although they are washable, bags that are not regularly cleaned can have a lot of bacteria. This can cause cross contamination especially if you are using it for food and groceries. 

Trash bag alternatives

Single use plastic bags are also commonly used for trash bags. Here are some alternatives that you can consider:

  • Reusable bags – While these are not common on the market yet, there are some reusable bags that can be used to collect trash. The downside is that you will most likely have to clean and dry it before your next use, which can be quite messy, depending on what type of waste you use it for. 
  • Plant based / biodegradable plastic bags – Plant based trash bags are made from a renewable source such as sugar cane, cornstarch and surplus crops. Many are compostable, reducing your environmental impact. 
  • Compostable bags – Compostable bags are designed to break down into organic parts after a certain time, even if they are not in a compost heap. These are much better than single use plastic bags which will just break down into microplastics. 

How to line your bin without using plastic bags?

Single use plastics are also regularly used to line a waste paper basket. Here are some greener options to help reduce plastic use at home or at your workplace:

  • Use no liner at all – consider what goes into your bin. If the bin is in your workspace and is usually used for dry items such as packaging or used pens, then you might not actually need a liner at all! 
  • Use newspapers – Repurpose old newspapers or magazines to line your bin.
  • Repurpose other materials – Old cardboard boxes or large paper bags can be repurposed to become bin liners. 
  • Recycled plastic bin liners – if you really must line your bin with plastic bin liners, consider those that have a high content of recycled plastics. 

Conclusion

Daily use of single use plastic bags can add up very quickly and before you know it, you would have used hundreds if not thousands of plastic bags. 

As such, it’s good to consider plastic bag alternatives to reduce the impact of plastic bags on the environment and wildlife. It might seem hard at first but once you get used to it, you’ll be glad that you switch over to a more sustainable alternative. 

Once you’ve gotten used to plastic bag alternatives, you can continue to lessen your carbon footprint by choosing sustainable alternatives to plastic bottles

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