This is a story that will please a lot of folks in plastics. The New York Times has a story on how canvas reusable shopping totes really aren't all that sustainable after all.
"An organic cotton tote needs to be used 20,000 times to offset its overall impact of production, according to a 2018 study by the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark. That equates to daily use for 54 years — for just one bag," Grace Cook writes.
Cotton, she continues, needs a lot of water in farming, reducing its ability to claim superior sustainability. The totes can't be composted in municipal centers, and when they're dyed or screen printed, they can't be recycled without a time-consuming effort to cut out any portion of the bag with logos, and then reuse the cloth.
Cook notes that the big reusable cotton tote bag trend began with a United Kingdom designer, Anya Hindmarch, who began selling the "I'm Not a Plastic Bag" tote with an environmental group in 2007.
But that doesn't mean environmentalists are suddenly going to embrace plastic bags.
Weighing the two materials against each other, "we end up in an environmental what-about-ism that leaves consumers with the idea that there is no solution," Melanie Dupuis, a professor of environmental studies and science at Pace University, told Cook.
For what it's worth, though, Hindmarch is making a new reusable bag from recycled plastic, called "I Am a Plastic Bag."