First, there were paper bags. They were biodegradable and held a lot of groceries.
There was a down side. They ripped and were difficult to carry.
If there was something wet inside, the paper would become mush, and everything would fall out.
If you put a heavy one in the curve of one arm and then picked another up from the top, it could tear
and dump everything out. For a very long time, they were the only choice.
Then came plastic. They were a welcome change. You could carry a bunch of them at once.
Wet items posed no problem. If they were over-packed, they could rip, but that could be
For some time, shoppers could choose and mix-and-match. That meant
shoppers could have the best of both worlds. Then paper disappeared, and the negatives
of plastic bags became more obvious. Still, they did the job, until we learned they were
bad for the environment because among other things, they did not decompose in the landfill .
Enter reusable bags. They promised to solve the problem. We could buy bags made out of
a variety of materials and reuse them when we shopped for groceries. It made it easy to
go green or so we thought. Now that reusable bags have been around for a while, it seems
they are not the panacea they promised to be, and shoppers need to pay special
The reason for the problem with reusable bags is obvious. As with anything that is used
more than once, they need to be cleaned, or the green you may be talking about could be
mold and other unsavory things like e-coli.
Many of the bags are made of materials that
make it difficult. Bags that can be tossed in a washing machine usually fail to retain
their shape after the first time. They often come out smaller and terribly wrinkled.
That makes them unattractive and difficult to use.
- Always Clean your reusable bags.
Do it every time you use them unless you only put dry boxes or
cans in them. It would be a good idea to reserve one kind of bag for those products, so
you know they do not need to be washed all the time. It might be reasonable to replace
these once a year if they are difficult to clean.
Using a better quality washable bag might be a good solution for fruits and vegetables.
Because they can be washed after every use, you do not need to be worried about replacing them until they wear out.
Fruits and vegetables are irregularly shaped anyway, so the shape of the bag is not that important.
For Meats, dairy and frozen items, there are special bags that are washable and insulated. They should be washed with an anti-bacterial product after every use. Care should be taken to make sure the entire surface “both inside and out” are thoroughly cleaned.
There are bags out there for everyone, you just need to shop around, talk to others and, like with any product, do your research and educate yourself.
Find your favorite reusable bags and clean them as if your life depended on it because it might.
Dierdre Jackson works with The College City as an online instructor. She also works as a freelance
writer and specializes in topics that concern the environment.
Category: Guest Posts