Which bag should you take to the store?
Over the years, a lot has already been done to raise awareness when choosing a bag for everyday purchases, but it still wouldn’t hurt to quickly go over the facts again. I hope that this contribution will inspire us to use our cotton bags more often and with proper care.
How did we come to the idea to use plastic bags for everything?
Until the 1960s, we used paper and canvas bags for shopping. Polyethylene, which is the most common raw material of plastic bags, was created as far back as 1898, but it wasn’t until the mid-50’swhen high-density polyethylene was created that it became suitable for applications such as the plastic bag. In 1965, the Swedish company Celloplast introduced the bag we know today as a plastic bag – it is cheap and strong. When it comes to general use, however, the shift to plastic bags was rather slow until the 1980s, when the American company Dixie Bag began producing and marketing plastic bags as an alternative to the then-predominant paper bag. In 1982, the Kroger and Safeway retail chains replaced paper bags with plastic bags and were soon followed by other stores and ultimately by the entire world. And so began one of the most pressing environmental problems we are facing today. In all fairness, the transition to a consumer economy and mindset this powerful also played a major part. I remember very well that my mom used to wash everything plastic, which is now taken for granted as disposable (e.g. straws, yogurt containers and bags), and use it over and over again (for example, to store spices and vegetables in the freezer). At that time, I was always embarrassed, thinking that we couldn’t afford a new bag or some straws, but only now am I fully aware of her sustainable thinking and the impact it had on me: “Don’t throw away what you can reuse. Wash it, dry it and use it again. You are saving money and nature.”
What’s the biggest problem with plastic?
I want to emphasize how very much have we done wrong in only a couple of decades. I do a lot of research on a topic that twisted our direction to the path of doom, it seems. Everything that is cheaper, more profitable and much more user-friendly has replaced more sustainable solutions that would require more effort or time. We have become too “comfortable”. The problem of single-use plastics has been heavily exposed in recent years. Do you realize how very threatening they are in several areas of our lives? Environmentally speaking, they contribute to global warming, as they originate from fossil resources, and to terrible pollution of the oceans and to the death of animals that mistake plastic for food (aquatic animals such as water birds, turtles, seals, whales, sea lions, as well as non-aquatic such as cows, goats or sheep); from the health perspective, the most pressing problem is the problem of microplastics and their invasion into our bodies through drinking water, while talking about costs, all the cleaning and removing plastic from public areas, drains and waters comes at the expense of taxpayers.
Plastics are artificial polymers and they never break down completely. Plastic is thus a permanent alien, as it consists of artificially synthesized polymers which are not present in nature by themselves. The durability of plastic, as one of the advantages at the time of its invention, now represents its most difficult challenge. It is estimated that a discarded bottle will remain in nature for 450 years. This is why decreasing the use of plastics is one of the most urgent measures for securing life in the form we know today.
Can we make a difference ourselves?
We need to be aware that real change is in our hands – literally. Choose a canvas bag, use it for years and protect our planet from more than 3,500 plastic bags (assuming we can use one canvas bag for 5 years on average and that the average person uses 700 plastic bags per year. However, another point is important – in order to justify the creation of a cotton bag, we must use it at least 131 times, therefore it is crucial that we get to used to reusing and that we take good care of our bags so that we can keep using them for several years. Cotton bags from Nelipot are designed to be reusable – they are well sewn and checked to withstand large purchases as they can hold up to a few kilograms.