I’m very disappointed to say that I’ve had to throw out at least four of the recycled plastic (cloth) bags I’ve purchased from either Superstore or Safeway over the past 6 months.
Four bags. Each bag is composed of at least 85% post-consumer material plastic material. I wonder how many plastic bags each one represents?
Well, first I decided to determine the volume of each bag. I find it’s intuitive to gauge how much waste something *is* by how much space it takes up. First, I filled a plastic container full of water and marked the meniscus with a marker. After plunging the bag into the water and jostling loose all of the air bubbles trapped within the bag’s folds, I marked the meniscus once more. Using a turkey baster, I sucked out the water displaced by the bag: 100mL. Given 1 cubic centimeter is equal to 1 mL of water, my particular cloth bag takes up 100 cubic centimeters of space.
How does this compare with your run of the mill plastic bag you might be given at a grocery store? Well, after making a few assumptions (see here), one can determine that your average plastic bag takes up about 6.5 cubic centimeters of space – more than 15 times less space than my cloth bags that keep falling apart.
Big freaking deal, says you! Well, assuming I would normally use 2 plastic bags a day (I shop daily for groceries), this means that I would be responsible for 4700 cubic centimeters of plastic waste every year if I didn’t use cloth bags. Given I have thrown away 4 of these bags in 6 months, and assuming this number is a fair representation of how often I’ll go through this particular bags in the future, then I’m only saving around 83% as much plastic as I thought I was.
In short, cloth bags still save a lot of trash – so stop dilly dallying, and pick one up…or bring a duffel bag, or something.