Reusable bags

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GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4111
Reusable bags

Do you use reusable bags? Do they help or hurt?

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 just this month.)

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?

Even if the giveaways do get reused, they might not get reused enough.
A nonwoven polypropylene bag, for example, would have to be used just 11 times to make up for the negative effects of a plastic bag used one time, according to a British Environment Agency study that compared bags. A cotton bag, however, would have to be used 131 times.
So if reusable bags aren’t solving the one-time use problem and they’re causing some environmental problems themselves, what’s the answer?
•For consumers, stop accepting free reusable bags that won’t get used. Just like we politely decline the free paper or plastic bags at checkout, we need to start politely declining a free reusable bag that we know we’ll never use again.
•For businesses and organizations wanting to give away bags as freebies for marketing purposes, consider the quality and the usefulness of the bags you’re giving away.
•For legislators, banning or placing a tax on the use of one-time use bags is proving to be effective, while bag giveaways and small rebates for reusable bags are not. When bans and taxes are enforced, people use those reusable bags more often. The use of plastic bags decreases significantly, and fewer plastic bags end up on the sides of roads and in our waterways.
Do you have reusable bags in your home that go unused?

http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/are-reusable-bags-doing-the-good-we-think-they-are?hpt=Sbin

Joined: 01/01/06
Posts: 262

I'm a mixed user:)

I need my supply of plastic bags so I can scoop doggy poop in them...
But I do use a few re-usable bags--mostly freebies. They've become my library bag, quick load of groceries, etc.. I keep one in the car "just-in-case". That said, I do have a couple that sit in my house...

I think the key is knowing your own usage and being aware. Turn it down if you don't need it (i.e. when I run into the grocery store for just a couple of items that I can carry out in my hands...or the dollar store....etc...)

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 1681

Hmmm, well I don't have stats to back up my stance, but I have a hard time believing that.

Every grocery store here either charges for bags or gives a discount if you bring your own. Most don't even have plastic bags at all - either you bring your own bags/bins or use paper.

I would say if plastic bag consumption has gone up or remained the same, it is because more people are shopping a Walmart or stores like it, that don't do anything to curb consumption.

Nothing to back that up, purely my own opinion.

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 1681

Oh and I only use re-useable bags when shopping. I've got about 10 of them and they live in my van.

What plastic bags I do get are used as garbage bags.

daniellevmt's picture
Joined: 07/25/06
Posts: 213

Yes, I use them, although I usually don't have enough of them for a big grocery trip. I've been trying to stuff my reusable bags w/ the plastic bags though and use them. And I've been trying to remember to pick up a reusable each time I shop.

I can say in my house, the amount of plastic bags has decreased big time. I used to have a bajillion of those things! Now I only have a small bundle in my corner cabinent, and I use them to line a couple of the smaller trash cans throughout the house.

Lydia, do you use the plastic bags to scoop poop on walks or from your yard? I have some good suggestions if you use them to scoop your yard.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

I only have reusables that are for cold food. The cloth ones mold etc when they get wet.. and paper well... sucks, it disinigrates sometimes before it gets in the door. So I use plastic usually. I usually recycle what I don't use to line garbage cans etc. I use a lot of those bags, for wet clothes, pee accidents, puke bags, treasures at the beach etc, so I don't have to recycle many of them.

Joined: 03/14/09
Posts: 624

I agree that most reusable bags given out are crap. But you don't have to accept giveaways, do you?

Most reusable bags I saw in the US are for car-users, and wouldn't stand up to normal use, I don't think.

I use canvas bags with tops, and can use those on my bike or on foot for a long time. If they get wet I wash them. Easy peasy.

In Hawaii they aren't allowed to give out plastic bags. I think that is a great step forward.

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
Posts: 1538

I rarely use my reusables for shopping. They are usually filled with swimming stuff, diaper supplies etc. However, my favorite grocery store puts all their empty boxes in bins at the check outs and then they 'suggest' that you use them for your groceries as they charge for plastic bags. So I usually do that, and then recycle the boxes when I am done. I love this system because I dont have to remember anything on my way to the store (my main reason for not using cloth), but I am reusing something all stores have on hand anyways.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

I am terrible in this way. I use a ton of plastic bags. I do however save them to give away. The food bank, book store and other places take clean plastic bags to re-use.

fuchsiasky's picture
Joined: 11/16/07
Posts: 955

I tend to forget the usable bags at home when I go shopping. I do use them when I remember and they are great. But I have lots and they are mostly full of other stuff - swimming stuff, tupperware, kid stuff etc... They are great storage and I never seem to have enough of them.

I haven't gotten any as giveaways though. All of the stores here sell them for a dollar and they are good quality. Most stores here either charge for bags, give points for cloth, only have paper, or have done away with them all together.

I do have a stash of plastic bags too. I need them for the kitty litter and other yucky things. When I get too many there is a place that you can take them in for recycling.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3183

I got two from our local grocery store, it's a short walk from the house so we often just go to grab a few things. It makes a huge difference for me. I use them every time and it totally saves me from bringing home and wasting the plastic ones. When we do a big shopping trip every few weeks I bring them but we end up needing a lot more, but at the local store it's perfect, one of us will go every night or every two nights and it makes a very big difference.

I like the way it works in Toronto, where they actively encourage it and charge people a very small fee for plastic. I wish they did that here, I think at the very least it makes people think twice and recognize how wasteful they are sometimes.

ange84's picture
Joined: 12/28/09
Posts: 6564

I used to use them all the time, but mine fell apart and I haven't replaced them. The supermarkets hate when you don't use the flat bottomed style bags so most of the freebies I ahve gathered are no good for groceries. I recycle my plastic bags though, I use them as bin liners in the nursery and bathroom and DS's daycare always need them for sending home dirty clothes and in my case nappies.

Joined: 01/28/03
Posts: 105

I use them, I actually have quite a few. I have them in my van for grocery shopping, and I find they actually hold up better than paper, and I also use them for things like sending my dd's winter boots to school, or her rest time towel goes in one and hangs on the hook at school, I use them on swimming trips etc. I am also in the process of making some cotton bags with draw strings to use for produce instead of plastic.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

Stupid.

I love them. I'm a car user. Even if we are picking up at the CSA or the farmers market or our meat place, we are driving our car to get there. Same for the grocery store. Or buying crap for the kids or clothing or whatnot. I use them for all of my purchases, not because I am some earth goddess, but because I am really into efficiency and I like to get my crap into the house in as little trips as possible ~ my re-useable bags can hold like 10 times the weight of those plastic crappers. I have little to no need for small plastic bags, we don't have a pet whose poop we have to pick up (gak) and we don't line our trash cans barring our kitchen one, which would not fit a small bag like that.

Honestly I don't even get the article, why on earth is someone dropping off re-useable bags at goodwill? why isn't she re-using them? I get dropping off fat clothes or whatever....but functional bags? Weird. Bias.

Joined: 08/05/06
Posts: 441

I need to start using reusable grocery bags. I am terrible about it! We do generally grocery shop with the car and I need one more thing to wash like I need a hole in my head, but it's on. I know this is not part of the debate, but can anyone suggest good reusable bags to me? Preferably something I can buy online (*cough* Amazon Prime *cough*).

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 1681

"Potter75" wrote:

Stupid.

I love them. I'm a car user. Even if we are picking up at the CSA or the farmers market or our meat place, we are driving our car to get there. Same for the grocery store. Or buying crap for the kids or clothing or whatnot. I use them for all of my purchases, not because I am some earth goddess, but because I am really into efficiency and I like to get my crap into the house in as little trips as possible ~ my re-useable bags can hold like 10 times the weight of those plastic crappers. I have little to no need for small plastic bags, we don't have a pet whose poop we have to pick up (gak) and we don't line our trash cans barring our kitchen one, which would not fit a small bag like that.

Honestly I don't even get the article, why on earth is someone dropping off re-useable bags at goodwill? why isn't she re-using them? I get dropping off fat clothes or whatever....but functional bags? Weird. Bias.

The bolded is a huge reason why I like using the cloth bags! They can hold a ton of weight!

I'm not getting the concern about them getting dirty or wet. My main grocery store does have small plastic bags for meat, just in case it leaks. But what else will make the bags dirty? I've never had a problem with that and I've used cloth bags for years.

I also do not understand people bringing them to thrift stores... Where do people get so many free bags that they can't use them. My good, sturdy, flat bottom ones are for groceries and the few cheaper, sack-like ones are for spare clothes, swimming stuff, etc.

Joined: 03/14/09
Posts: 624

"CalBearInBoston" wrote:

I need to start using reusable grocery bags. I am terrible about it! We do generally grocery shop with the car and I need one more thing to wash like I need a hole in my head, but it's on. I know this is not part of the debate, but can anyone suggest good reusable bags to me? Preferably something I can buy online (*cough* Amazon Prime *cough*).

My parents have a set from Costco, including an insulated bag. Ikea has some great huge cheap bags too (huge, for like 60 cents), but they aren't washable.

I have a Reisanthal bag which was a splurge but well worth it. It has metal handles, is insulated, and is my go-to train shopping bag. I think those are on US Amazon.

I got my mom this one last year and she is a convert to the bigger bags, now she even goes shopping on her bike.

My bags never get wet from the groceries, they get wet from rain. Smile

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

"Potter75" wrote:

Stupid.

I love them. I'm a car user. Even if we are picking up at the CSA or the farmers market or our meat place, we are driving our car to get there. Same for the grocery store. Or buying crap for the kids or clothing or whatnot. I use them for all of my purchases, not because I am some earth goddess, but because I am really into efficiency and I like to get my crap into the house in as little trips as possible ~ my re-useable bags can hold like 10 times the weight of those plastic crappers. I have little to no need for small plastic bags, we don't have a pet whose poop we have to pick up (gak) and we don't line our trash cans barring our kitchen one, which would not fit a small bag like that.

Honestly I don't even get the article, why on earth is someone dropping off re-useable bags at goodwill? why isn't she re-using them? I get dropping off fat clothes or whatever....but functional bags? Weird. Bias.

This is me word for word. I love reusable bags and I don;t know what store you all shop at thatyour bags disinegrate and all, but the bags I have gotten at Publix and Sprouts are awesome and last me years. The Target one sucks because it doesn't have a flat bottom and the Borders bag is too big and not as sturdy. But my grocery ones with the flat bottom and made of some super canvas/plasticy stuff is awesome. Like Melis says it holds way more then a plastic bag and is much easier to carry. Seriously y'all you should get these...

I have had ones for 3 years and it still has held up. We use them for everything and weeven have halloween theme ones for ToT bags.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

Kate, most of my bags are from Trader Joes (do you have them there???) ~ but online I saw these and they looked very cali to me. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002EY5SD4

I have zero experience with them, but now I want them Smile

Washing is easy ~ they rarely get dirty (dirt from the veggies is the biggest culprit) and that can be easily shaken out....I wash them all like every other month or so. You don't even have skeevy meat juice to worry about cross contamination with, so I think that your wash work would be really minimal.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3183

I agree with Melis about the bags too. . .the ones I have hold a lot more than plastic bags and are easier to carry, and when I use them I am walking back from the store to my house. It's only a five minute walk or so but the reusable bags make a huge difference, it's so much easier and more comfortable on my hands too.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

"blather" wrote:

My parents have a set from Costco, including an insulated bag. Ikea has some great huge cheap bags too (huge, for like 60 cents), but they aren't washable.

I have a Reisanthal bag which was a splurge but well worth it. It has metal handles, is insulated, and is my go-to train shopping bag. I think those are on US Amazon.

I got my mom this one last year and she is a convert to the bigger bags, now she even goes shopping on her bike.

My bags never get wet from the groceries, they get wet from rain. Smile

Mine get wet from the rain as well, and I don't have a good place to dry them out.. so I don't use cloth ones, or I would have to throw them in the washer/dryer every trip. In the Pacific NW coast we are known for our sideways rain.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

"culturedmom" wrote:

This is me word for word. I love reusable bags and I don;t know what store you all shop at thatyour bags disinegrate and all, but the bags I have gotten at Publix and Sprouts are awesome and last me years. The Target one sucks because it doesn't have a flat bottom and the Borders bag is too big and not as sturdy. But my grocery ones with the flat bottom and made of some super canvas/plasticy stuff is awesome. Like Melis says it holds way more then a plastic bag and is much easier to carry. Seriously y'all you should get these...

I have had ones for 3 years and it still has held up. We use them for everything and weeven have halloween theme ones for ToT bags.

That looks great, it was the paper bags that disinegrate. We don't have a Publix or Sprouts or even Target, we have a Safeway, and I can get to a Fred Meyer and Costco, that is about it Wink

Joined: 08/05/06
Posts: 441

So many fabulous ideas. Thanks, guys!

ETA: I've been looking for a new bag for school and I think I might go with one of those Reisanthel bags, blather. So cute!

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I use mine when I remember. It's a habit that I have been trying to get into, although I admit I am not great about it yet. Which is completely stupid because I am a car user and I always remember to put them back in my trunk. I just often forget that they are in my trunk until I am standing in the check out line. Honestly, I kind of almost wish that my grocery store would charge for plastic - I bet I would be better about remembering if it was costing me something each time.

I will say though that I also like to keep a small stash of the plastic bags in the house. They are useful as trash bags for our bathroom trashcans, and we also take them when we walk or run with the dog (several times a week during nice weather). So I don't think that I am in a place to completely wean myself off of them (because then I would just have to pay for a one use bag for trash/dog poop.) I do need to get better about it though.

Mine are all flat bottomed and very roomy. They are nice bags. I'm just a flake I guess. Lol

Joined: 01/01/06
Posts: 262

"daniellevmt" wrote:

Lydia, do you use the plastic bags to scoop poop on walks or from your yard? I have some good suggestions if you use them to scoop your yard.

Both. In the yard, I line an old flower pot with a bag and then scoop into it. Then tie and trash. But I also keep one tied to the leash or in the stroller for walk emergencies. I'd love to hear any ideas. Yard scooping is one of my least favorite things! (But also at least an every other day necessity.)

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3309

All the problems mentioned in the article can be solved by educating and encouraging people and business to make wise decision. The concept is a good one, the implementation sometimes is poor.

The ones we have from the grocery store in NY are sturdy as heck and have lasted us years. Seamus does most of the grocery shopping and he has gotten pretty good at remembering to use them.

I've read somewhere that one issue with reuseable bags is that many people very rarely clean them and they really should be. After a significant amount of use, especially for groceries, they get pretty dirty/germy/unsanitary (even if they don't look like they are)

So remember to clean your re-useable grocery bags!

Joined: 10/22/06
Posts: 1033

Love reusable bags for all the reasons mentioned. I am annoyed if I forget them even for a quick trip because it's a pain to haul tiny, flimsy plastic bags as compared to a sturdy tote I can toss over my shoulder. The store we do our big grocery trip at gives bag refunds which we can then have taken off our bill or donated to a local charity. The store doesn't offer plastic bags, only paper...which are greener, obviously, but just suck for hauling groceries...so it's good incentive for people to make sure they are using their totes. (The totes they sell are good quality and very inexpensive. We had one rip over the years and they replaced it without us asking).

Joined: 11/28/06
Posts: 848

I use plastic because I have a use for them after I've unloaded the groceries. Most of them I take to work to use for soiled Pull-Ups. A few I keep at home to pack my lunch in.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

I bought them and used them for groceries for about 18 months. Lately there have been a lot of requests for donations for the plastic bags, so I've stopped bringing them unless I know I'm going for canned food.

daniellevmt's picture
Joined: 07/25/06
Posts: 213

"runningmom" wrote:

Both. In the yard, I line an old flower pot with a bag and then scoop into it. Then tie and trash. But I also keep one tied to the leash or in the stroller for walk emergencies. I'd love to hear any ideas. Yard scooping is one of my least favorite things! (But also at least an every other day necessity.)

Have you ever heard of the Doggie Dooley septic system? I'm not sure where you are from, but we couldn't use one when we lived down south due to the clay, but we've had one ever since we moved back to Ohio and it's great! You don't have to buy the brand enzymes either. DH gets cheapie septic enzymes and uses those. The only problem is in the winter here it doesn't digest super well because it's always frozen, but we just call a septic company to come suck it out about once every two years. We love it...we just shovel, open it up w/ the foot lever and throw it in!
http://www.petsolutions.com/storefront/dog/outdoors/waste-composters/cdog-coutdoors-cwasteComposters-p1.html?gclid=CPC1vpTT16gCFQNx5Qodz0X8fA

daniellevmt's picture
Joined: 07/25/06
Posts: 213

I got the cutest, most durable reusable bags a few weeks ago at JoAnn fabric. They are plastic coated so they will be easy to wipe out as well.

RebeccaA'07's picture
Joined: 11/19/07
Posts: 1628

I always forget mine, but I do agree they are so much easier to use and hold much more then traditional plastic bags. The company that I work for actually buys the used bags that consumers return at WMT/Sam's, and we then make the bags into fill for dog beds that are sold at WMT/Sam's. So I recycle all of the plastic bags, for that reason alone.

carg0612's picture
Joined: 09/23/09
Posts: 1554

I use the reusable ones at certain stores and the plastic ones at others. I like them because they are easier to use and carry.

I need a few plastic ones for dog poop and a couple of other plastic type activities. Also, most of the groceries around here have a plastic bag recycle bin so if I have too many on hand I just bring them with me to recycle.

I also have a friend who crochets with plastic bags so when I have one that's a unique color I give it to her. She makes cute little baskets out of them.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

I've had the same string bags for eons. They are similar to these (but just a blah beige):

I love them because no matter the shape or size of the item - a box of cereal or a watermelon - it all fits and they go into the washer.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

"carg0612" wrote:

I also have a friend who crochets with plastic bags so when I have one that's a unique color I give it to her. She makes cute little baskets out of them.

What a neat idea.

Sandradee84's picture
Joined: 08/02/08
Posts: 229

I use only reusable bags now - the local grocery store to me (Publix) had a ton of them on clearance I happened across, so i bought 10 of them for $1 each, and they are LARGE bags. IE: We went grocery shopping and filled 3 bags for half a cart of food.

They are insanely great quality, very thick and I believe they are washable. I keep them folded up inside of one bag and keep that bag on the door to the garage. I just grab as many bags as I think I'll need for the trip and off I go.

We keep around our old plastic bags to fill the trash cans in the living room and the bathrooms. I also keep a few in the car as "just in case" kinda bags.