Tag Archives: shopping bags

Did you reuse your cotton bag 327 times?

As crazy as it may sound, plastic shopping bags have risen to the top of the environmental scene – not as a villain but as the winner!

A report released by the Environmental Agency in England has shown though life cycle analysis that plastic shopping bags are most often the best environmental solution, especially if you reuse them once as a can liner (or to clean up after your dog).

The actual report can be downloaded here: Plastic Bag Environmental Comparison

So, unless you reuse your paper bag 6-7 times, or your cotton bag over 327 times, when the cashier asks “Paper or Plastic?” stick with the plastic!

ACC demands positive marketing towards plastic bags

Group alleges ACC influenced comments about plastics in Calif. curricula

Posted August 22, 2011

WASHINGTON (Aug. 22, 2:35 p.m. ET) — An investigative reporting team alleges that the American Chemistry Council pressured educational officials in California to revise a section of an environmental curriculum to present positive information about plastic shopping bags.

Washington-based ACC says the allegation “distorts and misrepresents” what took place during a public comment period.

The California EPA also issued a statement, saying that all revisions to the Education and Environment Initiative curriculum were made for “accuracy and educational value” and “thoroughly vetted.”

California Watch, a reporting initiative of the Center for Investigative Reporting, claims that Gerald Lieberman, a private consultant hired by California school officials, added a new section to the 11th-grade teachers’ edition textbook called “The Advantages of Plastic Shopping Bags,” with the title and some of the textbook language inserted almost verbatim from letters written by the chemistry council.

California Watch posted the report on its website on Aug. 19.

The group also alleges that Lieberman added a workbook section that asks students to list some advantages of plastic bag, and that the correct answer in the revised teachers’ edition is that “plastic shopping bags are very convenient to use. They take less energy to manufacture than paper bags, cost less to transport and can be reused.”

The claim by California Watch “distorts and misrepresents public process and the role the ACC played in it,” said Steve Russell, ACC’s vice president of plastics. “When CalEPA developed its curricula, the agency … posted an invitation [for public comment] on draft versions of the curricula.”

“We submitted comments in response to the state’s public solicitation for input,” Russell said. “The purpose of our comments was to correct factual inaccuracies and to present a more complete view of plastic bags’ environmental attributes, including their benefits, which were absent from the draft. Our comments, and those of all other stakeholders, were submitted via email and through an online form on CalEPA’s website.”

Lieberman is director of the State Education and Environment Roundtable, a nonprofit group developed by 16 state departments of education to enhance environmental education in schools. He declined to comment on his role in editing the textbook, and referred Plastics News to CalEPA, which defended the EEI curriculum.

“We stand by the integrity of the EEI Curriculum and the open and transparent process in which it was created,” said Lindsey VanLaningham, director of communications for CalEPA. “The curriculum was thoroughly vetted by all appropriate state agencies and was ultimately approved (unanimously) by the California State Board of Education.”

“Throughout the development process, the state made revisions to the curriculum based on two primary factors: (1) accuracy; and (2) educational value,” said VanLaningham. “Teacher feedback supports our belief that the EEI engages students on issues of vital importance to them and their environment, including the role of plastic in our society.”

Regardless, state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica, author of the 2003 legislation that requires that environmental principles and concepts be taught in the state’s public schools, plans to write ask CalEPA officials to tweak the current text to remove language that portrays plastic bags in a favorable light.

The curriculum covers science, history, social studies and the arts, and weaves in environmental principles and concepts. It is currently being tested at 19 school districts that include 140 schools and more than 14,000 students. And an additional 400 school districts have signed up to use it, according to Cal-EPA.

In its letter to CalEPA dated Aug. 14, 2009, ACC said that it felt the lesson plan on Mass Production, Marketing and Consumption in the Roaring Twenties was “extensive in its inaccuracies and bias about plastic and plastic bags.

“The ACC takes exception to the overall tone, instructional approach and the lack of solutions offered — most especially, the lack of mention of the overall solution of plastic recycling,” wrote Alyson Thomas, a senior account executive with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, who submitted the letter on behalf of ACC.

“We recommend that the list of concerns related to plastic bags be balanced with a measured response regarding efforts … to promote the recycling of plastic bags,” ACC said.

Plastic bags are referred to as “litter” in the text, ACC said. “To be clear, plastic bags don’t start as litter. They can become litter through behavioral actions leading to inappropriate disposal.”

The new text incorporated that view, as it now says that plastic bags “can become litter,” instead of calling them litter as the original version.

According to California Watch, the first teachers’ edition also had been highly critical of plastic shopping bags, noting the long decomposition rate of the bags and their threat to marine life and ocean health.

That information remains in the text, but a section on the benefits of plastic bags was added, after ACC made its comments.

“To counteract what is perceived as an exclusively negative positioning of plastic bags issues, we recommend adding a section entitled “Benefits of Plastic Shopping Bags,” ACC said in its letter.

It suggested that the text point out that plastic grocery bags require 70 percent less energy to manufacture than paper ones, that lightweight plastic bags save space and fuel in transport, and that paper bags are reusable, and also can be recycled and made into new plastic bags, and plastic lumber for decking, park benches and picnic tables.

“We recommend adding text referring to the second life of plastic products, and the increase in the recycling of plastic bags,” ACC said. “Recovered plastic bags and wraps can be recycled into many products, including backyard decking, fencing, railings, shopping carts and new bags.”

Reusable Shopping Bags Not Risk Free

The newest fad: The Reusable bag .

Reusable bags are being greatly pushed against the single use plastic bag and people seem to be latching on to the concept. It sounds like a good enough idea, and with all the design options you can really expressive yourself, but is the reusable bag really risk free? Just like many new products there may be some drawbacks that weren’t discovered before becomingso popular and “savior-esque.” The Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona and the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University conducted a study called the Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags. Now I am going to brief you on the results of this study!

So what is “Cross contamination” ?

Cross contamination occurs when disease-causing microorganisms are transferred from one food to another.

The assessment was divided into 3 Phases

1. Determine the occurrence of bacteria and bacteria of health concern in reusable shopping bags
2. Determine the potential for microbial cross-contamination in reusable shopping bags
3. Evaluate and recommend the washing/bleaching procedures necessary to decontaminate reusable shopping bags

They started off by collecting bags from consumers entering grocery stores in the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles and Tucson, Arizona. 84 bags total were collected, 25 from LA, 25 from San Francisco and 34 from Tucson. All but 4 of these bags were woven polypropylene (a little softer than polyester which is what a typical plastic bottle is made out of.) Each bag owner was interviewed on bag usage, storage, and cleaning procedures. (4 unused reusable bags were also purchased and tested)


And the Results are in…

Large numbers of bacteria were found in all but 1 bag & coliform bacteria in half.

E-Coli was identified in 12% of the bags & a wide range of enteric bacteria & pathogens.

After meat juices were added to bags & stored in car s for 2 hours, bacteria increased 10-fold.



How to Clean your bags?

Hand or machine washing was found to reduce the bacteria in bags by >99.9%. So if you clean your bag after every separate use, you should be good! (Don’t forget to think of the water and energy that adds up over time)


What were the bag owners habits?

Cleaned bag at home?
97% No
3% Yes

Days bags were used in a Week?
49% 1 day
22% 2 days
18% 3 days
3% 4 days
2% 5 days
3% 6 days
3% 7 days

Bag used Soley for Groceries?
70% Yes
30% No

Other uses of Bag?
57% Other Shopping
19% Clothes
10% Books
9% Snacks
5% Biking Supplies

Separate Bags for Meats & Vegetables?
75% No
25% Yes

Transport in Car?
55% Trunk
45% Backseat

Stored at home?
55% Yes
45% No


As you are learning these bags get pretty filthy and are brought back into stores, which is proven to be not at all sanitary. So if reusable bag users do not make the continuous effort to keep their bags clean maybe this isn’t  the cleanest solution to the single-use plastic bag problem, why not explore another option like using Earth friendly  biodegradable and recyclable plastic instead, Like ENSO?

Take a few min to read the rest of the assessment it’s definitely worth your time!