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The Tote-al Truth

The phrase "paper or plastic" was laid to rest by the tote bag. Re-useable bags boasts an environmentally friendly mission that by using it decreased

The phrase “paper or plastic” was laid to rest by the tote bag. Re-useable bags boasts an environmentally friendly mission that by using it decreased waste, danger to wildlife and global warming.  Those easy to lug canvas bags make us good beyond good. They make us aspirational, ecologically responsible,  and downright virtuous. Now, data has come forward that could make all of our notions a lie.

Data has come forward that could make all of our notions a lie.

tote bags

Paper vs. Plastic vs. Tote

In 2008, the UK Environment Agency (UKEA) published a study of resource expenditures for various bags: paper, plastic, canvas, and recycled-polypropylene tote bags.  Surprisingly, plastic bags have the smallest per-use environmental impact. This is because the typical consumer will use the bag at least one more time – as a trash can liner or other primary cleaning task. The biggest loser in the of the study was actually the cotton tote bag, which, by contrast, had the highest and most severe global-warming potential, when considering that it requires far more resources to produce and distribute.

Plastic bags have the smallest per-use environmental impact.

This seems stunning, especially after all the ad mumbo jumbo displaying plastic bags stuck in trees, wafting in landfills and floating atop the majestic ocean.  The facts are they are recyclable, they’re cheap and they produce less carbon waste than cotton or paper bags. The UKEA study went on to highlight paper bags, which would need seven uses  to achieve the same per-use ratio. And finally, tote bags made from recycled polypropylene plastic require 26 uses, and cotton tote bags require 327 uses.

Consequently, the tote bag still seems to be connected to the ideal of environmentalism, even if its function reality isn’t. These latest findings have us not only scratching our heads in amazement, but also offering a little bit of solid advice. When it comes to tote back, either use them all the time or not at all, my friends.

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