A Closer Look at Reusable Bags

Robin Shreeves wrote a nice article on reusable bags so I thought I would post an excerpt here for our readers.

As we accumulate more reusable bags, many of them go unused. Reusable bags are creating their own environmental problems. What’s the answer?

Over the weekend, we took a minivan full of stuff to Goodwill. Included were several reusable cotton bags that we’d been given over the years from businesses and organizations – bags that I never used because we have so many reusable bags, and I’ve discovered which ones meet my needs the best. The rest just sit there.

This morning, I read an interesting piece on Philly.com about reusable bags. Although the reusable bag market has grown, there isn’t any hard evidence that suggests the plastic bag market has decreased. In fact, “indirect measures suggest that plastic bag production has remained relatively steady.”

Reusable bags are supposed to help us consume less, specifically fewer plastic and paper bags. The number of reusable bags being given away at Earth Day events, sporting events, town festivals, banks, grocery stores and more ends up in the millions each year, and not everyone who is given a bag uses it. (Target gave away a million reusable bags in April.)

Sometimes they go unused because they are of inferior quality. Sometimes they go unused because they end up in a pile of other free, unused reusable bags. Sometimes the person who accepted it never gets into the habit of using it.

With all of these bags going unused, a new environmental problem is developing – bags that end up getting thrown away without having been used. When the Chicago Bears gave away 40,000 bags at a 2009 game, many of them ended up in the stadium trash. I wonder about the bags that I took to Goodwill over the weekend. Is anyone ever going to use them?

Read the rest here.