Bags — Back to Reusable

Straw Basket with ProduceIn the old days, reusable bags were made of hides or woven materials, choices that are still available. Along came paper and plastic bags. Nowadays reusable bags are experiencing a comeback and are made of a wide variety of materials both natural and man-made, available in numerous shapes, sizes, purposes, and price ranges.

For our purposes, we’ll focus on bags for shopping and carrying around groceries and stuff.

String Bag with Root VegetablesGrocery Produce / Bulk / Meat Bags

There is a large selection of mesh and tight weave bags on the market for use as grocery produce or bulk bin bags. Reusable meat bags…hmmm…

Things to Think About
  • The material needs to be suitable for the job (e.g. a mesh bag might work for carrots from the produce aisle and almonds from the bulk bin but not flour).
  • Some people are concerned about paying more for produce or bulk bin items due to the extra weight of a reusable bag. Keep the bags lightweight and it won’t make a difference.
  • In my Internet travels, I did see some reusable meat/game bags but they were for hunters and not the grocery market meat counter.
  • Apparently, some stores do not allow customers to bring their own bags or other containers (not sure how they enforce this policy). The main reason seems to be fear of contamination. People with colds and other illnesses or dirty hands regularly enter grocery markets and touch produce and other items. Are reusable bags and containers really a greater health threat?. Smaller stores, co-ops, and farmers markets often welcome bring your own bag.

Reusable Bag PileGrocery / Retail Shopping Bags

There is no law (at least that I’m aware of) against using the same bags for grocery shopping and shoe shopping. However, trips to the grocery market may involve a lot more bags with a larger variety of different items, so different bags might make sense.

Things to Think About
  • Flat-bottomed (gusseted) bags seem easier to load and unload especially if you have a lot of groceries.
  • Other reusable bags are designed to roll up into a compact size, and may come with an integrated stuff pouch or tabs that snap together. Their small size enables them to easily fit in a pocket, purse, backpack, or glove box.
  • Having a unique bag or two for transporting meat and fish might be a good idea.
  • Insulated bags are are useful for transporting frozen and cold grocery items.
  • Reusable bags do need to be cleaned. Select a material that is easy to clean and follow the cleaning directions. Some can be thrown in the washer and others need hand washing. Frequency depends on what was carried in them.

Reusable Bag Materials

Reusable bags are made from a range of natural and synthetic materials, from organically grown cotton to recycled plastic (PET) bottles. Several are listed below:

  • Canvas
  • Cotton
  • Hemp
  • Muslin
  • Nylon
  • Polyester
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
  • Polypropylene
  • Silk
  • Straw
  • Wicker

Paper, Plastic, or Reusable Bag?

That is a question for another post…

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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