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There are studies on this topic. Here's an article: https://medium.com/stanford-magazine/paper-plastic-or-reusab...

I spent an hour or so researching the issue a long time ago and I seem to recall another study by a French supermarket chain. You need to reuse your cotton bags a lot -- hundreds of times is right -- for it to become worthwhile. Which is doable, of course.

And of course, the carbon footprint of both plastic bags as well as cotton bags varies wildly depending on the weight etc.




The polypropylene bags sold at many retailers (REI, Whole Foods, etc) only need to be used a few times to offset their increased cost of production.

“Nonwoven PP, on the other hand, is less costly than cotton. These bags need to be reused only 11 times to break even with the conventional plastic.”

Of course these are less durable that heavy cotton canvas. I doubt I could use one of these 200 times. I could definitely use a good canvas bag that many times.


How about I use a plastic bag twice? Now you have to use the canvas one 400 times.

Its just a losing gambit. You know how many shopping bags we have around the house? Supposed to save energy, but once you have 4 or 5 of them, you're up to a lifetime supply of plastic bags. And I'm sure we're not the only once.

This 'issue' is eco-theatre, in my view.


You don’t have to use the canvas one 200 times. It’s more like 130. And less if you use nylon or hemp or anything less energy costly than cotton. But yeah, if you want to reuse your throwaway bags, go ahead. It’s certainly a greener option than throwing them out.

It’s not “eco-theater” to want to reduce the ecological cost of bags, though. Not is it “eco-theater” to want to keep millions of plastic bags out of the oceans and rivers, or out of storm drains where they cause clogs, or out of bushes and trees where they are just ugly.


I don't think people tend to use plastic bags twice. Instead they double bag.

And as I alluded to above, not all bags of the same material are made equal. The original British source has a range of 80-250g for cotton bags. The ones I use weigh in at less than 50g.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/life-cycle-assess...




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