Simple Swaps : paper bags to totes

Written by Chloe Foreman

In late 2015, shops all around the UK stopped providing free plastic shopping bags and in doing so managed to decrease their use by a staggering 85% in the first six months alone. It was a true testament to what a difference every small change can make, and showed what we were willing to go through just to save 5p.

The Problem
Trying to be environmentally friendly is more complicated than simply ditching plastic bags. Did you know that plastic bags were first invented in the 70s to protect trees? Or that during production, paper emits 70% more air pollution than plastic bags.
Paper bags also consume three times the amount of water and four times as much energy than plastic bags during production. When it comes to recycling in the UK, soft plastics are seldom collected, while paper recycling is abundant. Therefore, paper is much more likely to be remade into something new while many plastic bags end up in landfill, or threatening our ocean wildlife.

The Solution
Cotton tote bags are the way to go for a more permanent solution, and they come in so many different sizes, colours and patterns that you can find the perfect bag for you. I do however have a bone to pick with the amount of free promotional tote bags out there as each of these bags still has an environmental footprint. Yes, they can be reused time and time again, but it is up to you to make sure that happens. A cotton bag had to be reused 131 times to make it more environmentally friendly than a single use plastic bag. If you want to be Super Eco, try making your own tote bag from an old T shirt, or see if you can find a bag made from hemp as this takes roughly half the amount of time and water than cotton to produce!

Whatever bag you choose, the moral of this story is to reuse it as much as possible, and to recycle it wisely. Be thankful and take nothing for granted, even if it’s 5p.