Tote bags aren’t as good for the environment as you think

This outward symbol of an individual’s inner commitment to the planet has unexpectedly become part of the problem. Because tote bags pollute. In addition to the problems with the ubiquitous material of tote bags, cotton, these bags are barely recyclable and the printing used in them is not necessarily durable.

While plastic bags are becoming increasingly rare (which is a good thing), we have seen tote bags, cotton bags take a prominent place, first appearing in luxury stores, then vintage shops, then everywhere. It has become a symbol for brands to show their commitment to the planet… even if the manufacture of tote bags actually has a significant environmental cost. So it turns out that the brazen adoption of the cotton tote bag has actually created a new problem.

It’s not a new problem. In 2018, a study conducted by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food concluded that a bag would have to be used 20,000 times to offset the overall impact of its production. In other words, if you really want to be consistent, you’ll have to use your favorite tote bag every day for… 54 years. Additionally, cotton production is associated with the forced labor of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China, which produces 20% of the world’s cotton.

(Image credit: Guido Coppa/Unsplash)

Recycling and dyes

The New York Times brought the subject back to the forefront with an article entitled “The Cotton Tote Crisis” published on August 24. In addition to the problem of production, the newspaper raises the problem of collection and recycling. Asked by the newspaper, Maxine Bédat, director of the New Standard Institute, a non-profit association specializing in fashion and sustainable development, said that she had “not yet found municipal compost that would accept textiles. “. And only 15% of the 30 million tons of cotton produced each year actually goes to textile depots.

And even when they make it to a recycling facility, it’s difficult to remove the PVC-based logos or the dyes used to print them. According to Christopher Stanev, co-founder of Evrnu, a Seattle-based textile recycling company, the printed designs must be cut from the fabric. Not to mention that the old fabric must then be transformed into new fabric… which consumes almost as much energy as its original manufacture.

Does all this mean we should go back to plastic bags? The short answer is no. Because cotton is no worse than plastic. In fact, they are difficult to compare. While cotton can use pesticides (if not grown organically) and dry up rivers due to its water consumption, plastic bags use fossil fuels which emit greenhouse gases , are never biodegradable and clog the oceans.

Faced with this problem, some brands are turning to other textile solutions. British designer Ally Capellino recently ditched the use of cotton for hemp, while Anya Hindmarch presented a new version of her original and pioneering tote bag, this time made from recycled water bottles.

In the end, the simplest solution is perhaps the most obvious: not all products need the extra packaging of a bag.

(Main image credit: Kevin Grieve/Unsplash)

This story was published via AFP Relaxnews.

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