Not all reusable bags are created equal

I’ve been using reusable grocery bags for years, but not for any reason the hip or fashionable would recognize. First, I had no car for long periods in Georgia, and that meant long walk and bus waits to get groceries: overloaded plastic bags cut into your fingers. (I also used a backpack to shop.) Second, my dreadful little apartment had a roach problem and both plastic and paper bags — if saved — gave them convenient homes. If thrown out, well, that’s wasteful. Mesh bags from the co-op were ideal.

Fast forward to today. Now everyone has them, and it’s hard to find a big event in D.C. where someone isn’t using the reusable bag as giveaway swag. The problem is that most are made of a nonwoven plastic fiber that, after a few months use, tears and becomes unusable. More trash; the plastic bag problem only reduced and delayed. (It will probably help the river pollution problem since there are fewer of them and they’re not so light as to blow anywhere, but that’s not a solution to the plastics-in-environment problem.)

So now, when proffered a freebie bag, I say no unless it’s one of the rare ones made of muslin. They wear harder, could be prepared if need be, and will biodegrade. (The Swiss and British legations have had them at events here in D.C.)

Of course, you could buy or make a muslin, canvas or string bag: what a notion!

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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