Reusable Bags: Eco-friendly or Eco-hostile?
Today’s food for thought: According to The New York Times, those planet-saving reusable bags may be adding an unwanted flavour to your food: Lead. According to the article, lead particles are most likely to be in reusable bags made in China. The risk, while present, is minimal: over time, the most likely outcome is that during the decomposition process the lead could potentially leak in to groundwater or, as the bag becomes worn, even flake off in to your food. Yum.
According to The Daily Green, the offending bags are most likely those made of polypropylene – which is the main component of most reusable bags out there. (Think bags you see at most retailers that look like cloth, but are really made of plastic made to look like woven cloth). Heavy, robust bags made from cotton (often organic) are available, but tend to be more expensive and do have their own environmental cost.
This isn’t the first bad news for reusable bags. Last year, research conducted by the plastics industry indicated that reusable bags are breeding grounds for bacteria and mold, releasing the results far and wide in a desperate bid to turn people back to single-use plastic. However, the stigma didn’t stick, and reusable bags continue to gain popularity as consumers’ green consciences kick in – as well as realizing the clear practical advantages to reusable bags, such as the ability to carry more and heavier amounts within the bags, as well as their undeniable fashion cred.
Ultimately, should the news of lead or bacteria concern you? Not really. If you’re worried, there are two easy steps you can take to protect yourself: One is to wash any unpackaged food thoroughly before consumption (which you should do anyway to wash off any pesticide residue that may be present on the food), as well as wash your reusable bags occasionally. The second is to toss your polypropylene bags into the recycle bin and source and use more eco-friendly bags, such as those made from organic cottons or better yet, recycled or upcycled material. They’ll last longer, be more robust, and probably look far more chic.
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedalfreak/