Reusable bags, also known as “bags for life,” are trendy among the environmentally conscious consumers. Consumers who are thinking they are cutting down on plastic waste don’t know that they are actually contributing to plastic waste even more. In some grocery stores, these bags are required unless you want to pay a high price for the single-use option, in other stores, there is no other option.
Bags For Life
The problem with reusable bags is they are made up of a much thicker and denser plastic than single-use bags. Not only that, but people aren’t even re-using them much. This means we’ve replaced cheap single-use plastic bags with more expensive, thicker single-use bags.
Since people are using the “bags for life” a few times, then discarding them, it adds more plastic overall to our landfills. In addition to thicker plastic, the bags are woven with fine plastic fibers. These fibers become microplastics that can potentially enter our food chain through bioaccumulation.
A report from Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigated the statistics of reusable bag sales. The researchers looked into grocery stores in the United Kingdom and found that the top stores sold 1.5 billion plastic reusable bags so far in 2019. That means each household acquired around 54 “bags for life.” In 2018, the top eight grocery stores sold 959 million of these bags, so from the previous year, the number of sales has risen significantly.
The report says:
Our survey reveals a huge rise in the sale of plastic ‘bags for life,’ demonstrating the inadequacy of the current policy which is clearly not providing a strong enough incentive for people to stop using ‘bags for life’ as a single-use option.
Since these statistics are annual numbers, people are replacing the reusable bags regularly, at a rate that’s increasingly approaching single use. “We have replaced one problem with another. Bags for life have become bags for a week,” said one of the report’s authors, Fiona Nicholls.
These reusable bags are still too cheap, which may be the problem. Since they’re cheap, they’re easily discarded after a couple of uses. One solution could be to set the price higher on re-usable bags. If the bags are very expensive, people will most likely hold on to them longer to avoid paying for a new one.
Ultimately, there is one real solution –to stop using plastic once and for all. If single-use bags were not made of plastic, then consumers could use them all the time, and it wouldn’t matter. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Therefore, if you want to be an environmentally conscious individual, then bring your own reusable bags when you go out shopping. If you have a reusable bag, reuse it until you can’t anymore because it’s falling apart.