Sunday, June 27, 2010

Green Bags, Can they make you sick?

I’ve written a couple of posts about green bags and one thing I’m not sure about is the claim they the best thing since sliced bread for the environment.

I do want to save the environment, I do what to protect it, I do want to do my bit to save the world. But by stopping the use of plastic carry bags, I think it will create more problems than it solves.

Firstly, many people used to use the plastic carry bags more than once, in fact 2-3 times before they went into land fill, They’d get used for the shopping, then used for lunch, or to carry the dirty/wet clothes from sports, or even to carry something to give to the neighbours and then used as bin liners.

Now to get a bin liner, you need to BUY plastic bags off the shelf. I am the first to admit that I don’t visit, nor do I buy plastic bags, not bin liners, not big black garbage bags. Once every two years I go and buy the BIG orange plastic bags and that is to protect my Christmas Tree for 24 months. Notice I say once every 2 years? – that’s because it’s true. Every time I do have to visit the plastic bag section, I can’t believe the variety of new bags that are available, scented plastic bags, tie top plastic bags, zip lock plastic bags and the choices continue to grow.

Secondly and possibly more importantly, I was listening to Melbourne Radio on Friday and I heard that a major player in the open air markets had stopped the use of plastic bags, great, hey they are doing their bit for the environment. Problem, Plastic is impervious to leakage, impervious to water, hell what goes in has trouble getting out. So blood that manages to seep past the paper is contained in the plastic bag outer layer. Well they are stopping the use of plastic bags in the meat and deli section as a start. Then this morning I read this article Shopping Bags, A Health Risk - Study It made me think twice.

How often does a plastic bag come home from shopping and there has been leakage? Be it blood from meat? Liquid from a purchase? These ‘drips’ then stay on the bag and cross-contaminate the next item contained in the same bag, or the bag across from the one leaking due to contact. Or even the boot of your car. It creeps me out. Don’t get me wrong. I use ‘green’ bags, I use back packs, my son today took 3 plastic bags with him for sport, one for muddy shoes, one for a clean towel and one for his wet soccer ball. These bags will more often than not get re-used for the same purpose, OR as a garbage bag for either the car or the house.

So wash your green bags, make sure that IF there has been a leak, you wash the all the bags from the outing. And even if no leaks, wash the bags once a month, you wouldn’t use the same tea towel for 2 weeks straight without washing would you?

All food for thought and living better, cleaner and healthier than we have done in the past.

My previous posts on green bags and the environment.
Shipping Containers, The New Plastic Bags of the Sea
Recycling and Re-Usable Carry Bags
Antibiotics, Your Health and Your Childrens Health


  1. I know you can get plastic bin liners now that are compost friendly, so that is a step in the right direction. Personally I still prefer to reuse shopping bags where I can for the rubbish bin.

    Think I'm now going to go get all my green bags and given them a good wash. :)

  2. A wash soubds like a good idea. I don't know about compostible plastic bin liners. I don't go into the plastic bag sextion of the supermarket *blush* - I try to avoid the use of plastic, but realise at the same time - that I do use, but I try to re-use and not turn into refuse.

    Just me I suppose


  3. Hi Heather, I agree , however I am against the green bags on a number of issues, one I think their environmental creditability is suss, what are they made from , do they break down, I reuse or recycle the plastic bags that I get , nothing is wasted.Secondly I really think it comes down to a cost on these markets, they look good as they push the costs across to us governments all too ready to push another tax that won't save the planet and inconveniences us .

    I am sick of people using causes to push agendas , I think that was a great post.


  4. Pinks or reds for meat, green for veggies...

    Remember when we could get boxes? why can't we use those anymore?

  5. rorybaust - I too am against green bags - sure they have their place, but not when it comes to food stuffs. For 'green' bags to be used effectively I seem to recall that the average bags gets used 2-3 times and they need to be used 6 times before they become a positive green advantage. (as I said from memory) - I feel a new post!

    Storr - I far prefer boxes also - but they are not available, cardboard is considered anti-green also, even though completely bio-degradable. See cardboard is a paper product and paper uses timber, which is trees and trees needs to be saved. (Regardless of the fact, the younger the tree, the faster they grow, the faster they take carbon dioxide out the atmosphere.

    It's just one of those things. People only seem to consider the here and now and not the future.

    How many green bags do you have at home? I've never bought a 'green' bag, they've always been given to our household via promotions or similiar, never bought. As stated I;ve neer bought plastic bags either. How many people can boost that?

    Anyway rorybaust and Storr - thanks for the comments, really appreciated that you've taken the time to comment!

  6. I don't buy "green" bags and I don't buy plastic bags. I use any plastic bags I get for rubbish. The green bags I have were given to me- promotions, etc- we have heaps of them. I don't use "green" bags for meat etc.

    Good topic- not many people think about it in this way. I do notice there are alot of companies that have bags made of different things (silk, hemp, bamboo etc etc) all claiming to be better in some way than the others.

  7. Well, I have to admit that I am a tad obsessed with buying these 'green' bags. Yes. I pay for them. They are relatively inexpensive (always less then $2) I buy them because the're cute but they also happen to be sturdy. That said, I rarely use them for grocery shopping. They make great beach bags, library totes, overnight bags for my son...they have lots of uses and they can be stored anywhere so I always have some on hand. As for grocery shopping I use paper as much as possible. When plastic is my only option, they become bin liners but my local stores also provide places you can drop them off to be recycled.
    Great post Heather. I'm a new follower.

  8. MJ - you must think along the same lines as me.

    Katie - I agree they are great for everything, (just like plastic bags) but for me to find a green bag, always seem the problem

    The plastic bags are under the sink, and we just automatically reach for them for exactly the same reasons, They take up less room and they are given to use for nothing and haven't because they are recycled, often time and time again, for our family they are better value.

    I understand people want to do what's best - hell we need to do what's best for the environment - but I get the gut feeling in 10 years time - we'll be saying it's wrong, and we'll switch back to cardboard or brown paper. The greenies have the right idea - but I think they are going about it the wrong way.

    Why not approach the food manufacturers and get them to reduce plastic usage there? - Why must everything be triple wrapped in plastic.

    I don't know

  9. If you want a really cool reusable bag that is not only machine washable but can also carry 10kg per bag check out bags.

  10. Marls a great idea - Melbourne based business - contactable by phone/email.
    Flip and Tumble
    Still doesn't answer the problem of new material off the shelf to replace the bags that we once got from the supermarket - but certainly a start!