173

How many times do you think you need to use your cotton reusable bag before it is environmentally beneficial compared to using disposable bags?

The answer is in the title. 173.

A recent study at Victoria University showed that reusable bags are ‘better on paper’ than in fact, as cotton bags would have to be reused 173 times before they were environmentally superior to our old friend, the single use plastic bag.

Wow. 173 times. There is no way that a cotton reusable bag would last that long. If they lasted for 50 uses, they would be doing well.

Also, think of how disgusting a reusable bag would be after 173 uses. The hygiene issues would be considerable. But it is the environmental issues that are more important here. Because, haven’t we been told, over and over, by supermarkets and politicians alike that ‘single’ use plastic bags are bad for the environment?

Well, now we are told what we always knew. This is not true at all.

But wait – there’s more, and it gets worse.

The Conversation  ran an article in August quoting a Danish study that estimated the number of uses reusable bags would need to be environmentally friendly. quote

2018 Danish study, looking at the number of times a bag should be reused before being used as a bin liner and then discarded, found that:

  • polypropylene bags (most of the green reusable bags found at supermarkets) should be used 37 times
  • paper bags should be used 43 times
  • cotton bags should be used 7,100 times.

Another UK study, which only considered the climate change impact, found that to have lower global warming potential than single-use plastic bags:

  • paper bags should be used three times
  • low-density polyethylene bags (the thicker plastic bags commonly used in supermarkets) should be used four times
  • non-woven polypropylene bags should be used 11 times
  • cotton bags should be used 131 times. end quote

Okay, so the numbers vary with the different studies that have been undertaken; but you get the picture. Those reusable bags that we have all been forced into using are actually worse for the environment than the ‘single use’ plastic bags that have been banned. By a country mile.

The stupidity is breathtaking. And it doesn’t end there either. quote

Note, however, that if a plastic bag is reused (even as a bin liner) the number of times an alternative needs to be used increases. end quote

So, every time we reuse a plastic bag – as we do, for wet things, food scraps, dog droppings or as a bin liner, the environmental impact of the reusable bag is increased.

Excuse me while I go and howl at the moon.

So, we have now lost an extremely useful and convenient item because… well, fill in the blanks, because I don’t know. The only conclusion that I can come to is virtue signalling. Oh, and improving the supermarkets’ profit margins, of course.

It is true that a large number of countries needed to do something about littering and banning plastic bags was a way of doing it. But New Zealand is not one of those countries. We have lost the use of a convenience item because people cannot dispose of their litter properly in Asia and Africa. And when you put it that way, it is just madness.

I always believed that the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything was 42. Now, I have revised that number. The answer to life, the universe and reusable bags is actually 173.


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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

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