The media has propelled environmentalism into a mass movement. And in their quest to do something, to make some difference, consumers have rushed to change light bulbs, bring their own reusable bags and purchase hybrids; they’re making changes to reduce their footprints and their personal consumption. This urgency has created both opportunity and confusion in the marketplace as we all sort through ever-expanding categories of choices, manufactured in the US and abroad.
There is no denying the negative impacts of plastic waste on our natural environment. An estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. That's 1 million bags used per minute. And, according to the EPA, more than 380 billion of those are discarded in the U.S.; less than 4 percent of those are actually recycled.
Legislation is being proposed and adopted across the USA to eliminate or tax plastic and/or paper bags. People are thinking about the waste that is created; beyond single-use plastic to excess packaging. The conversation is about reusable bags (for shopping and produce), reusable water bottles (pour your own), composting and biodegradable options. One conversation leads to the next and behaviors change along the way.
So what about reusable bags? Are some bags better, more responsible than others? What if functionally equivalent bags meet our standards for quality and durability but not for social responsibility? What if they're made of plastic but responsibly produced? How important is this information to consumers and how will it affect their behaviors? How do we educate ourselves about what it means to make sustainable choices and then find products that meet those standards and are affordable?
As a company that’s committed to “cleaning the planet, one bag at a time™” we encourage our customers to make a difference through their actions and their purchases.
We offer the following definitions and terms for products in the reusable bag category and encourage consumers to think about quality, durability, country of origin and third party certification (or fair wage and fair labor standards) before making “reusable” bag choices.
Organic Cotton: Virgin material, recyclable, does decompose. Organic is the greenest of the cotton options as it is grown without chemical pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides. The Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) sets the standards for organic certification from "seed to sewn" taking into account the social aspects of production.
Recycled Cotton: Recycled material, recyclable, does decompose. This cotton can be made of reclaimed post-consumer or post-industrial cotton scrap. This scrap, which typically would be sent to the landfill, is gathered and made into new yarn. Hemp: Virgin materials, natural fibers, do decompose in landfills. Hemp is a renewable & sustainable crop.
Natural Cotton: Virgin material, recyclable, does decompose. Cotton is one of the most intense crops on the planet and the cloth can range from heavily processed to chemical free, depending on the farmers and country of origin. 100% Recycled PET: Recycled post consumer material, non-recyclable, does not decompose in a landfill. This is a brand new technology - bags made of 100% recycled post consumer PET. 100% post-consumer plastic primarily from soda bottles, water bottles, and other beverage and household containers. However, buyer beware: A lot of bags say they’re made “with” recycled material without actually specifying the % of recycled content or the originof the plastic. Also known as RPet, RPete or Recycled PET.
NWPP: Non-woven polypropylene (PP): Virgin material, may be recycled, where accepted, does not decompose in a landfill. NWPP is a thermoplastic polymer, petroleum based product made by the chemical industry and used in a wide variety of applications, including packaging & textiles. It is rugged and unusually resistant to many chemical solvents, bases and acids. These bags have flooded the market in the last two years, are functional and generally are very low cost. PET: Non-polyethylene terephthalate: non-recyclable, does not decompose in a landfill. Commonly abbreviated PET, PETE, is a thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family and is used in synthetic fibers. It is one of the most important raw materials used in man-made fibers. Think in terms of water bottles, clear. WPP: Woven polypropylene- virgin material, non-recyclable, does not decompose in a landfill.
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