The reusable grocery bag seemed ingenious at first, and I bought the bags as soon as they were available. However, I do not always remember to bring them when I go to the store since the bags are thin and cannot hold much weight. Most bags sold are thin and damage easily. This was true for my bags, and I decreased their usage after too much weight caused the seam stitching to tear.
I was able to find a bag that did become a routine addition to my store trips. My favorite reusable grocery bag was purchased at Waitrose in London. The bag is made of jute, is incredibly thick, and the weight it can hold far surpasses the locally available bags. I now use this bag often and almost never forget it when I head to the store.
If I do not remember to bring my bag, I am still using plastic bags. This is the largest con that I can determine. Other cons were easy to find as well:
- All bags may not be machine washable.
- Bags can be a source of cross contamination if “carrying fresh produce, meat, poultry, or fish” (Anonymous, 2011).
- Some bags are manufactured in other countries for their cheap labor, but shipping the bags still uses fuel (Lister, 2007).
- Consumer trends affect usage. If consumers do not purchase the reusable bags being sold at the store, the store has to evaluate its investment in reusable bags and in some cases, pull them.
- Cheaper materials or construction can render the bag unusable. If it is not recycled, it turns into waste.
- There is an increase in the risk of illness. Bags contaminated by food products are often left in the trunks of vehicles. The increased heat allows bacteria to breed.
- Most bags made of cloth material are not water resistant.
This is a pretty big list of negative aspects of reusable bags. I hoped I could find some positive aspects, but they were fewer than I expected:
- The same product can be used indefinitely when made with quality ingredients.
- There is a reduction in paper and plastic waste/litter.
- Strong reusable bags can hold more weight than paper or plastic bags; this reduces the number of bags needed (decreases production).
The concept seems better on the surface than on paper, and environmental impacts and health concerns remain. Some bags were rumored to have almost maximum levels of lead in them causing them to be recalled. Another large grocery chain in Europe imported their bags from China; their cost was less because of China’s inexpensive labor, but harmful fuels were used to ship the product (Lister, 2007). If the products are manufactured responsibly, made of heavier material, and consumers embrace their use on a wide and consistent scale, I do believe the product could be more environmentally responsible than traditional plastic or paper bags.
What is your opinion on these bags, and do you use them?
Anonymous. (2011). Reduce the risks when using reusable grocery bags. Retrieved from ProQuest Newsstand. doi: 2399616761.
Dedyna, K. (2011). Where’s the love for reusable bags? Thrifty flirts with plastic again. Retrieved from ProQuest Newsstand. doi: 2430772271
Lister, K. (2007). Eco bag ‘con’. Retrieved from ProQuest Newsstand. doi: 1261881531.
Turk, J., & Bensel, T. (2011). Contemporary environmental issues. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.