Although more environmentally friendly than traditional single-use plastic bags, reusable bags, depending on what they are made out of, are more energy-intensive to produce, distribute, and recycle.
Generally speaking, reusable bags tend to be made of more than one material to give the bag added reinforcement and added street appeal. On a life cycle basis, stronger, heavier bags—no matter what material they are made from, although cotton is the worst culprit—will have a more substantial environmental impact. That’s because heavier bags use more resources to create as well as distribute.
Beware of bacteria magnets
Sad but true—your tote bags, if you have been using them diligently, are probably filthy. Especially when totes are used for groceries, the bags can be breeding grounds for food-borne bacteria. If the bags are used to carry meat, fish or fruits and vegetables, chances of bacterial contamination are especially high. According to the Cleveland Clinic, cross-contamination can occur when meat, produce, and pre-cooked foods are placed in the same bag.
Tote tip: Wash your bags regularly, either weekly or after each trip to the store, to kill all the accumulated bacteria. To take it one step further, you could designate particular reusable bags for meat and for produce. And where you keep your bags matters. Especially in summer, storing your bags in the trunk of a hot car creates an optimal bacteria friendly environment, encouraging bacteria to multiply. Try storing them in a hallway or closet instead.
Too much of a good thing?
Part of the problem with tote bags is that they are irresistible and insidious in equal measure. Just like plastic bags, reusable bags multiply, but unlike plastic bags, there is no formal recycling designation for tote bags. Used for promotional purposes and marketing of all kinds, tote bags’ swelling popularity, according to the Atlantic, means bags that have been used very little (or not at all) can be found piled on curbs, tossed in trashcans in city parks, in dumpsters, and basically everywhere. Ubiquity breeds contempt—consumers have come to see them as disposable, defeating their very purpose.
This article is from Readers Digest and can be found at: