Article about the negative impacts of replacing plastic bags with cotton totes

Pretty interesting article regarding the benefits, yes benefits, of using plastic bags vs. cotton totes based overall environmental impact(s). While plastic bags are proven detrimental to marine life, the production of them (plastic bags) vs. a cotton tote are far less harmful for the environment as a whole!! Who wudda thunk!

At this point reusing a trunk fitted accessory for hauling groceries and other bulk is about the only thing I will bother with. Means more trips from the trunk to the house but so what.

We keep a couple of big blue IKEA totes in each vehicle. Also one large & one small Igloo/Coleman cooler.

The IKEA bags hold much more than your average grocery store bags, and indestructible. Reusable and cheap. Yet to wear one out after years of service.

No need to bag at checkout. Wheel the cart to your car, and pack chilled/frozen into coolers. Dry and non perishables go into big blue bags.

Even a full shopping cart of stuff is manageable on one trip between the two of us.


Ha! If places aren’t very far, maybe walk than drive.

Some stores give out cotton bags, I have a few but never use it, as it got dirty looking quick. A few Ikea ones, and polyester ones…that are extremely durable. But I see people trashing reusable bags all the time too. Far from the number of maximum use in NJ’s article.

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My thought exactly. Our son uses those blue/yellow Ikea bags for laundry day. They are sturdy!!

My car has a cargo trunk for instruments. Its easy enough to adapt the space. I do walk the cart to the car. Mostly because customers get testy waiting for their turn in line😉.

That article ignores several things to reach the conclusions they did.


Chinatown’s produce/butchers/fishmongers are about 4~9 city blocks from our front door. Safeway supermarket & Trader Joe is a mere 5 blocks in the other direction. Of course we ride our feet when we shop in our ‘hood.

My wife keeps two plastic grocery bags neatly folded in her Kate Spade walkabout bag. We’re always well prepared to stop and shop at the spur of the moment. No 10c bag charge!

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No matter what, we are doomed!


Ohhhhh I didn’t need this article to know this!!

Most articles about eco-consciousness (for lack of a better term) ignore, oversimplify, or glibly skim over more than just “several” things to the point that I’d start throwing things at my computer monitor if I took them (ETA too) seriously… Which things in particular are you thinking of in this case?


Our plastic disposal problems, at least on the West Coast, are getting extreme. We don’t burn things around here, they are buried if contaminated.
We have a bunch of hemp bags around here.
Cotton is a crop, oil for plastic isn’t.
For starters…


“Use fewer things, many times, and don’t buy new ones.”

The endgame on plastic is worse, full stop. But the critical element is human behaviour. If we trash things that don’t need to be, yes, it’s all bad.

“The report also assumed the cotton could not be recycled, since very little infrastructure exists for textile recycling.”

This is a real question - why hasn’t there been more focus on this.

I had a quirky housekeeper years ago, and it drove her batty that there was no push for fabric recycling. She regularly threatened to stop coming unless I collected any scraps of fabric (and clothing, of course) in a separate bag for her to take to the fabric recycling place. Checked my trash… (my mom’s age, I’m using to being scolded by that generation :joy:)

The real takeaway of the article should not have been the catchy headline, appearing to support plastic. It should have been the core of most of our issues - reuse, fix, reuse - then recycle - and only throw away as a last resort. That’s a systemic issue, which needs infrastructure change.

My mom still uses a 30-plus-year old blender that has been fixed on average once every year or two, by some guy on the corner who never made it to high school but is a blender expert. When my kitchenaid had issues when she was visiting and she called them, they sent a replacement and told her to throw out the other one. So, yeah.


Those blue IKEA totes!

IKEA started making small reusable bags a couple of years back as well, 99c a pop. I buy a bunch, then give them away (they we re stocking stuffers last year too). Not the same as more expensive ones I’ve had for years, but I don’t get mad when someone “borrows” a bag and never returns it. Rather, I’m happy to hand them out with the promise of reuse.

The rag trade accounts for a whole world of stuff stuff being reused/shipped to foreign shores.

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Did not know that! Thanks, will pick up a couple or few next time around. It looks like I may keep the same larger totes around forever, they are literally tough as nails.

The export firm above my previous office used to do a good trade sending used clothing to buyers in Africa. Non sorted, no picking. A few 20’ containers per month. I watched a YouTube video on this very trade, and its quite fascinating. There is whole supply chain in place to squeeze every bit of residual value from our unneeded and unwanted stuff.

Recently, there have been collection boxes popping up in our area. These appear to be “for profit” organizations, unlike Salvation Army or Goodwill. Nice idea. People supply the goods for free, the company only pays for office and logistics. No COGS (cost of goods sold)

Bravo for the container fillers. We have very probably unknowingly supported that business model after sorting through “stuff”.

That said,

You know, many (not enough) others know, that the legislatures do not know that without seeing the forest for the trees, policy-making is too frequently an exercise in short term, politically correct negative outcomes. (Have you ever met a politician who doesn’t have an insatiable appetite for low-hanging fruit (aka press release/twitter/instagram fodder?) The analysis that matters in the long run (i.e. good for society) is in engineering-speak “cradle to grave”. Every possible input (in policy-speak, social costs) and every possible output (social gains), has to be identified, data supporting yea and nay has to be collected/verified/estimated/etc. and the correct calculus has to be applied . . . lotta “Therein lies the rubs” . . . are we convinced that all the inputs, outputs, data, let alone useful calculus (and we know nearly every politician can’t do THE Math), are identified and processed in meaningful order?


**This is not quite the same issue , but if you do use cotton totes, remember to wash them and especially
if any fluids from meat have leaked in the bag, as you do not want cross contamination of your fruits vegetables and breads etc


I wash my cotton bags (made from heavy-duty fabric by a friend of my mother). They’re probably at least thirty years old by now and still in great shape. And they’re sturdy, not like those woven poly-whatever bags from China everyone gives away.

I threw my public-radio tote into the wash, and it shrunk down to 1/3 of its size.