8:26:21 Whatever Happened to Reusable Bags?!

 Whatever happened to reusable bags? You know, those cloth bags that were to replace nasty LPDE plastic bags (outlawed in our town) or Kraft paper bags (a nickel each in our city)? You know, those cloth (or recycled plastic) totes that were de rigeur for a trip to an upscale grocer if you were filled with any desire to signal your virtue to all who noticed.

H-E-B bag

Well first off, reusable bags were hit hard by the pandemic in early 2020. Major retailers banned them to help stop the spread of the virus. Alas, even if the pox were to end soon, the reusable bags won't be making much of a comeback for an even more relevant reason.

The original idea behind the reusable bags was environmental friendliness. So save the trees, plus throttle back--if not outlaw--petrol-based plastics that don't biodegrade.

I once fell for that line about reusables. I now have a collection of 47 reusable bags that show I went "green." (Hearing this, a co-worker said cloth reusable bags were never meant to be "used like disposable paperbags.") Well, I've kept them because many have a story. One from carrefour.fr, the market chain, a friend brought back from Paris, knowing I collected. One from the Academic Bookshop in Helsinki, a bookstore with Alvar Aalto's imprint. Or an elaborate cloth chiller bag from H-E-B of Texas: insulated with a zipper for "frozen and refrigerated items." Sainsbury and Tesco bags remember a UK visit. One from UCLA Alumni is a contribution gift (and I get a discount for such affiliation from my car insurer). Plycon Transportation (the truckers). And dozens more. But none likely to see service again.

Reusable bags it turns out are not the no-brainer proposition we once thought. Viz., Denmark's Ministry of Environment and Food did a study and found a shocker. That cotton tote has one helluva carbon footprint. Growing cotton takes a lot of resources. The Ministry concluded a cotton tote needs to be used 20,000 times (roughly every day for 54 years) to offset its carbon footprint. They've also said that despised classic plastic bag, on the other hand, used once zeroes out its environmental impact!

Where do I go from here? Well, I'm not unhappy to see the reusable bags deep-sixed. They were freighted with a lot of signifying and a whiff of elitism. Still, my collection, one day, might have eBay potential.

But seriously, I'm happy re-using the permitted plastic produce bags and I love my Kraft paper bags. I reuse these every week, and I've even patched paper tears with duct tape!

Image credit: heb.com


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