Other Lessons in This Course
- Environmental Impact of Tote Bags
- Understanding Eco-Friendly Promo Products
- Environmental Impact of Promo Products
- How To Measure Your Head For Hats
- Difference Between a Padfolio and Portfolio?
- Shelf Life of a Promo Product Battery
- Why are Red and Orange Mugs More Expensive?
- Importance of Drinkware and Case Quantities
- Why Does My Shipping Cost So Much?
- Acceptable Artwork and File Formats at Quality Logo Products®
- Garment Imprint Locations
- What is a Gusset?
- What Are Promotional Products?
- What Are the Different Types of Stress Balls?
- Environmental Impact of Tote Bags
- Things to Avoid When Ordering Promotional Items
- What Are Cell Phone Wallets?
The world is being swallowed up by plastic grocery bags. You can find them in the garbage, piled high in landfills, or floating around in the ocean. We can all do our part to make the Earth more eco-friendly by switching to a reusable tote bag. The perfect tote can hold anything from books to groceries and is durable enough to use over and over again.
Are tote bags better for the environment? How can you recycle your tote bags? Let’s find out the impact tote bags have on our planet.
To appreciate the value of a tote bag, it’s important to first understand the impact of their more environmentally-hazardous alternative, plastic bags. Single-use plastic bags were invented in 1965 by Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin. In a little over 50 years, these infamous bags went from being in every supermarket nationwide to being banned in 59 countries around the world.
Take a look at the effects of plastic bags and their horrifying numbers:
Since plastic bags aren’t getting recycled, you can find them littering roads, forests, and oceans. Disposing of plastic improperly is harming the environment as well as people and animals. Millions of plastic bags in our oceans and landfills damage all habitats.
Toxins & Water Retention
Plastic bags aren’t biodegradable and never truly breakdwn. This makes the leftover plastic more porous, meaning it’s able to retain water and absorb toxins. When a bag full of toxins slips into the ocean, all the chemicals are released into the water killing plants and marine life.
On land, trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide (what we exhale) and release oxygen (what we inhale). The same goes for aquatic plants.
Higher Mosquito Populations
Mosquitos thrive in wet climates because they need water to lay their eggs. Water retention in plastic bags helps the mosquito population grow, which can potentially spread diseases.
Less oxygen in the water means fish will die, causing a domino effect. Once fish are gone, animals who eat fish may also die off. Not to mention, less food and the potential of higher disease transmission rates aren’t benefical for any living creature. Of course, this won’t happen overnight or anytime soon, but the possibility is there.
It’s simple: plastic bags don’t belong in nature. They’re harming our land, water, and air, and with all that in mind, they’re not worth carrying around.
Despite the urgency of reducing pollution, plastic continues to be dumped into landfills, which eventually winds up in the ocean. A lot of companies like Adidas, IKEA, Costco, Aldi, and Whole Foods are saying “no” to plastic bags and “yes” to branded totes!
Instead of throwing out single-use plastic bags, you can reuse your tote bags over and over again. The average American family uses 1,500 bags a year, which is about 478 plastic bags per person.
Let’s do the math.
Although this is just a rough estimate based on average statistics, the numbers are astronomical. If every person in the United States opted to use reusable tote bags instead of single-use plastic bags, almost 155.7 trillion bags wouldn’t wind up polluting the Earth.
With all this talk about finding eco-friendly solutions, it’s important to explain what the term really means in relation to tote bags. The green movement began in 1972 and aimed to make people conscious of the deterioration of nature and its resources. Since then, terms like green, eco-friendly, and sustainable often get used interchangeably; however, they all have very different definitions.
Green is an umbrella term for all the words associated with the environmental impact on the Earth. Eco-friendly and sustainable are the most common terms that fall underneath the umbrella. While they both encourage helping the planet, their biggest difference is timing. Eco-friendly is used to describe the present and in layman’s terms, it means it doesn’t harm the planet. On the other hand, sustainable focuses on the future, meaning an item, or action, will generate environmental benefits long term. Basically, an item that’s eco-friendly doesn’t have to be sustainable, but if something is sustainable, it’s also eco-friendly.
Do Tote Bags Make the Cut?
While tote bags aren’t currently sustainable, most of them are considered eco-friendly. However, not all tote bags are the perfect solution because some materials require the use of petroleum during manufacturing. This releases carbon into the air and increases the chance of oil spills in the ocean, polluting it further and potentially killing wildlife.
There is good news though! Some tote bags are made from natural resources or require less amounts of petroleum to manufacture. Choosing these materials are better choices than plastic bags when it comes to picking an eco-friendly solution.
These are the materials that are the most eco-friendly.
Polypropylene: Manufacturing polypropylene doesn’t require a lot of petroleum and it’s one of the only plastic-based tote bags that can be recycled.
Jute: This plant-based fiber is biodegradable and doesn’t require the use of petroleum to manufacture.
Recycled materials: Tote bags made from recycled materials are always considered eco-friendly because the materials used didn’t wind up in the trash.
100% Cotton: This plant-based material is a natural resource that requires very little petroleum to produce and manufacture.
Canvas: Derived from cotton, canvas is also a plant-based material that’s biodegradable.
No matter which material you choose or how it’s made, using tote bags will cut down on plastic waste. Totes are great for reusing again and again, unlike plastic bags.
It’s safe to say that most tote bags are used as reusable shopping bags, especially since some stores offer them in place of plastic bags. Totes shouldn’t be limited to just grocery stores though. They’re just as useful as their plastic counterparts in a number of situations.
Travel: Tote bags are perfect to use for a quick carry-on bag. Not to mention, you can easily toss in that newly-purchased magazine without needing a plastic bag from the airport’s newsstand.
Garden: If you’re a gardener, you know how much of a pain it can be transporting your produce from your garden to your kitchen. Using tote bags will make it ten times faster and eliminate the use of plastic bags.
Work: Small tote bags are perfect for bringing your lunch to work. This will also save you money and prevent you from bringing your lunch in a plastic or paper bag.
Storage: Tote bags make great storage containers for items like art supplies, toys, and sewing materials. You can even color code them to find what you need faster, which certainly beats digging through a dozen plastic bags that look the same.
Garbage: One of the most common ways to “reuse” a plastic bag is as a garbage liner for small trash bins. Imagine how convenient it’d be to toss dryer sheets and lint in a garbage can lined with a tote bag that’s also super easy to wash when it gets dirty.
The more you use a tote bag, the greater the impact they have on the environment. Any time you have to carry or transport items around, try using a tote bag. You won’t regret their convenience and reliability.
Don’t throw away your tote bag when the handle finally breaks, or you don’t need it anymore. Repurpose it instead!
Check out how you can turn your tote bag into something new:
Make Drink Coasters
Give Your Plants a New Look
Craft Your Own Pillowcases
Create Kitchen Pot Holders
Turn Totes Into an Apron for Kids
If repurposing your tote bags doesn’t pique your creativity, you can always recycle them. Totes made from polypropylene are currently the only material that can be recycled. Double check with your local recycling plant to make sure they recycle polypropylene since not every company will. Still stuck? Recycle Now is a company that allows you to search for recyclers that recycle specific items like tote bags. If there’s nothing within driving distance of you, they also offer a charity locator to help you find organizations to donate your totes.
Some tote bags can even be composted because they’re made from plant fibers and organic matter. Composting allows organic materials to decompose naturally. In return, you’re left with a soil conditioner that replenishes nutrients back into the ground.
Take a look at the tote bag materials you can compost in your own backyard:
If you’re able to, cut up the totes before throwing them into your compost bin. This will help them decompose quicker. Tote bags that have been dyed aren’t recommended for composting and should be repurposed, recycled, or donated.
The Bottom Line
Tote bags can be reused multiple times, repurposed, or recycled into some pretty amazing and useful items. By saying “no” to plastic bags, you’re eliminating plastic pollution, saving the lives of animals, and increasing the longevity of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Kyrsten’s vast knowledge of promotional giveaways and marketing has led to several hit articles. She has also published work for PPB Magazine, a publication from the Promotional Products Association International.