First, a few facts about single-use plastic bags:
- It is estimated that worldwide plastic bag consumption falls between 500 billion and 1 trillion bags annually. That breaks down to almost 1 million every minute.
- The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only 4 trips to the grocery store.
- Only 0.5% to 3% of all bags winds up recycled.
- Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts .
- A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
- When plastics break down, they don't biodegrade; they photodegrade. This means the materials break down to smaller fragments which readily soak up toxins. They then contaminate soil, waterways, and animals upon digestion.
|Paper Grocery Bag, Free - THUMBS DOWN|
|Cheapy Recycled Plastic Grocery Bag, 99 cents - OK|
|Durable Fabric Reusable Shopping Bags, $4.95 and up - THUMBS UP|
Finally, I invested in some real reusable shopping bags from Reuseit.com. I bought the bag pictured above made from recycled cotton. They don't stand up on their own as well as the flimsy plastic bags or paper bags, because the material is less rigid. On the other hand, they are much easier to collapse and shove inside another bag for storage and carrying. Overall, they have worked out very well for us. The two sizes of handles allow easy carrying by hand or over the shoulder. I never worry that the handles will rip off because I've filled the bag too full. And perhaps because I took the effort to research the bags and pay a little more dough for them, I seem to remember to bring them to the grocery store more consistently. I've been using them for nearly 3 months now, and see absolutely no signs of wear-and-tear on them.
|Ultra-compact shopping bags, $5.95 and up - THUMBS UP|
|Mesh Cotton Produce Bags, $3.95 - OK|
These also work well for purchases (although it's more difficult to see what's inside than with mesh), but not for storage. Like the mesh bags above, I tend to use these for apples and oranges and other produce that doesn't need to be stored in a bag. These would also work well for buying from bulk storage bins. Label them and reuse them for the same bulk items, or wash between uses.
Recycled PET Mesh Produce Bags, $5.95 and up for set of 2,
$10.95 and up for set of 4 - Thumbs Up
I actually compared the Recycled PET Mesh Produce Bag side by side with a single-use plastic bag by storing some of my broccoli in each type of bag inside the same produce drawer. After about a week, neither had gone bad and both were still vibrant green, but the broccoli inside the Recycled PET Mesh Produce Bag was bendy while the broccoli inside the single-use plastic produce bag was still crisp.
I used broccoli to compare how well PET Mesh Bag and
a single-use plastic bag preserve produce in the fridge.
So here is the solution I came up with. I do not like transferring food from one bag to another when I get home from the store, so that is out. But I did try putting my Recycled PET Mesh Produce Bag inside a single-use plastic bag to store produce, and this worked beautifully. Just to be clear: produce inside PET Mesh Bag, Mesh Bag inside single-use plastic bag (I need a photo of this). Now, you may be wondering, what is the point of that? Why not just reuse the single-use plastic bag?
All the bags reviewed in this post can be purchased from Reuseit.com. They are offering $1.99 shipping for the entire month of April in honor of Earth Day. In addition, if you order by April 25, 2011 and use the coupon code EARTHDAY, you will receive the Recycled PET Mesh Workhorse FREE with any order (while supplies last).
Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Reuseit.com. If you buy something from them via my blog, I receive a small percentage of the purchase. I received the Recycled PET Produce Bags free to facilitate this review. All other bags mentioned in this post were purchased with my own money. Read my disclosure policy here.