Reusable Bags: A Tricky Shade of Green

Thicker plastic requires more energy to produce, decomposes slower
By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User
Posted Sep 27, 2008 5:54 AM CDT
Reusable bags can take 28 times more energy than traditional plastic ones to produce.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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(Newser) – Reusable shopping bags are this year's “it” giveaway, but they may not be as green as their feel-good slogans—like “Save the world” and "I used to be a plastic bag"—claim. The problem is that old habits die hard—many people simply forget to reuse them, the Wall Street Journal reports. And that's troublesome because the trendy bags take 28 times more energy to produce than a traditional plastic bag, decompose slower, and often arrive on oil-powered transport from China.

“You’re actually worse off by taking one," a waste prevention writer says, unless you can break ingrained shopping habits and use it multiple times. Many shoppers are unlikely to do so—one industry insider pegs the number who will at about 10%. Others would resist carrying a branded bag into a competing store, a marketing professor says, adding that “what these bags are doing is creating loyalty to the store."