As countries around the world phase out plastic bags, reusable bags have emerged as the best alternative. Committing to the use of reusable bags reduces plastic waste and helps the world to achieve sustainability goals.
But, there are also some misconceptions surrounding reusable bags. During the pandemic, reusable bags were demonized for harboring harmful microbes, which resulted in fewer reusable bags being used. Furthermore, the sustainability of a reusable bag doesn’t come from its materials but rather from its reusability; since it can be used multiple times, it offers lower global warming potential overall, but only if it’s reused.
To claim sustainable practices, you must ensure that you do your due diligence, and this includes understanding your reusable bags and the best ways to use them. Here are 8 things that you need to know about reusable bags in order to make the most of them.
1. One reusable bag replaces hundreds of plastic bags
A single reusable bag can replace hundreds of plastic bags in its lifetime. In the United States alone, the average person uses around 365 plastic bags per year, according to a 2018 article by National Geographic. This means that over 100 billion plastic bags are consumed every year. If even half of the population were to switch to reusable bags, this would result in a massive reduction in plastic bag use.
Plastic bags do not degrade; rather they break down into microplastics. The lightweight nature of plastic bags adds an additional hazard; they easily catch the wind, which carries the bags far distances. Because of this, even plastic bags that have been disposed of in landfills may eventually become litter. Many of these bags will eventually end up in our oceans where they kill marine life and decimate ecosystems.
Convincing even a portion of your consumers to make the switch to reusable bags helps to prevent plastic waste and preserve our planet.
2. Some reusable bags are made from recycled plastic
Reusable bags aren’t only about prevention. Some bags alleviate the existing plastic waste problem by using recycled plastic as a material.
rPET stands for recycled polyethylene terephthalate, and it refers to materials made from recycled items like plastic bottles, containers, and other single-use products. PET is the most prevalent plastic material, and recycling it allows us to greatly reduce plastic waste.
Solving the plastic pollution problem requires more than prevention. We must find a way to get rid of existing plastic waste, too. rPET bags and other reusable bags made from recycled materials do just that.
3. Many reusable bags do not harbor bacteria
At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, efforts to reduce plastic bags were slowed when it was claimed that reusable bags can harbor harmful bacteria and viruses. In fact, many stores banned the use of reusable bags because of this claim. As it turns out, this claim isn’t entirely true.
Even though studies have found vestiges of harmful bacteria in reusable bags, the trace amounts will have little or no effect on a healthy person, according to scientists. Furthermore, many bag types, like PP non-woven bags, can easily be wiped down with soap and water, eradicating any danger. Other bag materials, like cotton, can be machine washed.
Biomaster bags offer another alternative for those concerned about microbes. They use silver, a naturally antimicrobial substance used by medical professionals for decades, to eliminate any harmful microbes that may reside in your bag.
4. Bioplastic materials offer the best of both worlds
There is a type of plastic that is biodegradable: bioplastic. It’s derived from biodegradable materials (rather than petroleum), which means that they will degrade over time. Some bioplastics are even compostable.
Reusable bags made from bioplastics are very similar to non-woven PP bags, and they offer the same feel, aesthetic, and durability. But, these bags will eventually return to nature.
5. Reusable bags must be reused in order to reduce their global warming potential
This point may seem obvious, but reusable bags need to be used a certain number of times in order to offer a lower global warming potential than plastic bags.
As a singular entity, a plastic bag has little environmental impact. When you look at the entire life cycle of a single plastic bag, it requires fewer resources than a single reusable bag.
It’s important to consider the environmental impact of the production of a reusable bag. Therefore, in order for a reusable bag to be truly sustainable, its owner must commit to reusing the bag as much as possible. As a sustainable company, you can use your position to encourage your customers to reuse their bags so that the bags live up to their environmental promise.
6. Not all reusable bags are the same
As with all things, you must do your due diligence in order to ensure that the bags you choose are ethically sourced. In order to claim true sustainability, your company must analyze all parts of the process, from the extraction of raw materials to shipment, before offering a sustainable product.
You can ensure that your reusable bags are both eco-friendly and ethical by checking that the supplier offers third-party certification surrounding their products and that they are transparent about where their products come from. Sustainability is all about responsibility, and that includes thorough research of the products that you offer.
7. Businesses have the power to positively influence their consumers
The journey toward a more sustainable planet requires the collaboration of all stakeholders—individuals, businesses, and governments. While many regulatory ideas place much of that responsibility in the hands of producers, individuals have their role as well, especially when it comes to the consumption of reusable bags. You can do your part to influence individual behavior.
There have been many examples of companies using their influence to adjust consumer behavior, both for the good and the bad. By investing in reusable bags, you’re not only helping to reduce your company’s plastic footprint by eliminating plastic bag use, but you can also help to encourage your customers to reduce their household plastic footprint as well.
8. Some reusable bags are still made of plastic
It may seem counterintuitive to use reusable plastic bags to replace single-use plastic bags when the overarching goal is to reduce plastic waste, but not all plastic is the same. To show that the plastic in reusable bags is not as harmful, we need to take a look at the waste hierarchy. It states that, besides prevention, reusing materials is the best way to manage waste, followed by recycling. Since single-use plastic bags cannot be reused or recycled, they must be discarded—the lowest option on the waste hierarchy.
The types of plastic used in reusable bags are very durable, so they can be reused many times. Many plastics are also recyclable. This places them well above single-use plastic bags in the waste hierarchy.
Reusable bags are the best alternative to plastic bags. As the world phases out plastic bags, your company should anticipate future legislation by offering reusable bags to your customers. But, don’t just invest in any bag. You need to ensure that your bags are ethically and environmentally responsible throughout their entire lifecycle.
When you choose bk-bags, you can be sure that your reusable bags are sustainable, ethical, and long-lasting. We thoroughly audit our supply chains, and many of our bags carry third-party certification, ensuring transparency. Ready to invest in reusable bags for your business? Contact bk-bags today!