It’s been a while since we have experienced an overall discouragement to use plastic bags, especially the single-use and disposable kinds. From departmental stores and grocery stores charging extra for a carry-on bag, to many stores ditching plastic bags for paper bags and envelopes, efforts have been made not just nationwide but also globally to eliminate plastic use as much as possible. Recently, the Indian government announced a new draft for the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, which proposes to prohibit the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, and sale of certain single-use plastics from January 1, 2022, potentially freeing the country of a great amount of single-use plastic.
In a bid to find an eco-friendlier alternative to plastic, especially plastic bags, the reusable and aesthetically pleasing cotton tote was brought to everyone’s attention. These bags caught on quickly in the global community as well, becoming a cool symbol of conscious consumption. But little did we know, that this supposed saviour from plastics would not prove to be very eco-friendly after all.
In a recent article by the New York Times, the findings from a 2018 lifecycle assessment by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food came to light. As per the findings, an organic cotton tote needs to be used 20,000 times to offset the overall impact of its production. This means that the bag would have to be used daily for 54 years in order for one to cancel out its environmental footprint.
As is widely known, the cotton crop involves large amounts of water to grow. As per the Circular Laboratory, between 10,000 and 20,000 litres of water is required to produce just one kilogram of cotton. That said, recycling a cotton tote has its own set of challenges. In the case of logos pasted on a tote, it would have to be cut out before recycling, especially if it isn’t decomposable or recyclable.
The only way to really be sustainable in this aspect would be to not hoard more such totes than required, and additionally, to use the ones you have for as long as you possibly can, which should anyway be a common practice for most consumption.
Image used for representational purposes only.