Reusable bags in Australia are becoming increasingly popular with some of the local businesses reporting several-fold increase in sales over a short period of time. It might be a trend driven by the rise of eco consumerism where many Aussies are ready to pay premium for more sustainable products. It can also be a result of plastic grocery bags ban that rolled out during the last couple of years across nearly the entire country. Australia still doesn’t have a nationwide plastic bags ban implemented, but the leading retailers such as Coles, Woolworths and Harris Farm all stopped to offer free single-use plastic shopping bags to their consumers. Plastic single-use carryout bags are getting banned not only in Australia, but in many other countries. As of July 2018, there were 126 other countries that have adopted some form of legislation to regulate plastic shopping bags. Such measures are taking place due to the enormous contribution of single-use plastic bags to the overall plastic pollution that chokes our environment and exacerbate climate change.
From many consumer’s perspective a disposable plastic bag represents a convenient shopping solution and replacing it with a reusable bag alternative might take some time and adjustments, especially when not knowing what you can use instead of plastic bags, which reusable bags are the best and why we should use reusable bags at the first place. In this blog post we have provided you with answers to all these questions and more.
What reusable bags can you use instead of plastic bags?
Nowadays, there are so many different types of reusable bags that you really don’t need to use disposables anymore! Previously free of charge plastic carryout bags are successfully replaced by reusable shopping bags many of which are also foldable to make their use more convenient. Thin plastic bags from fruit and veg supermarket’s section are being successfully swapped by reusable mesh produce bags. There are also reusable silicone bags for anything from bite-sized snacks and sandwiches to bigger sized items to store at home. Items like sandwiches can now also be wrapped in beeswax or vegan wraps famous for their incredibly cute designs - as an additional benefit, such wraps can usually last up to a year. Buying a loaf of bread covered in plastic becomes slowly thing of the past with reusable bread bags popping up on the market. One of the latest additions to the reusable family are reusable trolley bags that are designed to make any shopping trip enjoyable and stress-free, they are usually sold as a pack of a few bags that includes an insulated cool bag for any frozen items you purchase. And, of course, don’t forget about TOMbag - the world’s first functional reusable garbage bags that allow you to rid the last single-use plastic from your life - a garbage bag!
Environmental impact of reusable bags
When answering the question why we should use reusable bags, their environmental impact comes first to mind as an answer. But are all reusable bags made equal? In terms of their carbon footprint it all comes down to the material they are made of and how many times you use your reusable bag before it’s being discarded. One of the biggest discussions related to reusable bags environmental impact is whether those made of cotton are actually better than single-use plastic bags. A 2011 study commissioned by the Environment Agency compared several types of bags including cotton reusable bags for their climate change impact. The study concluded that to have lower global warming potential than disposable plastic bags cotton bags should be used 131 times before being thrown away. In addition, if a single-used plastic bag is reused - for instance, as a garbage bag - the number of times that cotton reusable bag needs to be used increases.
According to industry experts, reusable bags made from recycled plastic bottles (rPET) is one one of the best eco-friendly replacements for single-use plastic bags. Such bags have multiple benefits including reduction of waste, resource and energy conservation, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and overall decreased pollution.
In Australia, plastic bottles are on the list of 10 most common rubbish items found during Cleanup Australia Day. With only one third of PET plastic drink bottles being recycled, there are about 373 million plastic bottles that end up as waste each year. Recycling plastic bottles thus helps to conserve landfill space and reduce the number of mismanaged discarded bottles that pollute the broader environment. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that recycling one ton of plastic helps to conserve about 3.8 barrels of crude oil, while half a kilo of PET conserves around 12,000 BTUs (British thermal units) of heat energy. In general, recycling utilises up to two-thirds less energy than traditional manufacturing processes, helping to reduce the strain on the traditional power grid, which is based on the fossil fuels burning. Burning less fossil fuels translates into less greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere - another advantages of reusable bags made with rPET. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average family can decrease their CO2 emissions by up to 154 kg annually by recycling their plastic waste. And, finally, giving plastic water bottles a second life as your fancy reusable bag means less dangerous chemicals leaking from plastic and pollution our soil, air, oceans and waterways. With so many obvious benefits, why not to give a reusable bag made with rPET a try?
With so many reusable bags options available out there, it’s very easy to ditch old-school plastic bags. By switching to reusables you won’t only help to protect the environment, but perhaps also save some buck since most of the reusable bags are sturdy and made to last.