After New York State banned plastic bags, customers have been offered alternatives, such as paper bags at grocery stores or cloth reusable bags at Target. While this has undoubtedly reduced pollution of single use plastic bags in the state, these new bags have brought their own issues. Paper bags need to be used at least three times to negate their more carbon intensive production process compared to single use plastic bags. Non-woven polypropylene bags require around 11 uses. At the more extreme end, cotton bags need to be reused 131 times to break even.
In order for your reusable bag-related sustainability efforts to be successful, you need to reuse the bags as much as possible. Store your leftover bags in an easily accessible location (I chose my car’s trunk) so when you head to the store you can remember to take one with you.
Remember the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Reduce your bag usage by not taking a new one every time you go to a store, reuse the bags you do have, and recycle any clean paper bags at the end of their life.
Written by Sarah Woodams, Class of 2024