One of the leading North American companies in the reusable bag industry, Chico Bags, recently settled a lawsuit that large plastic bag manufacturers had brought against it. Seemingly both sides were winners: one of the manufacturers has agreed to make its products more Earth-friendly, and Chico removed disputable claims from its website.
Most "reusable" bags that have become so trendy for both the merchants who sell them cheaply (or give them away) and their users who want to appear to be environmentally sensitive arguably are more destructive than plastic. That’s a reasonable conclusion after assessing both physical and social considerations. Things have changed much since the 2005 study that assaulted plastic bags as being worse than a diesel truck belching clouds of smoke.
Today many “disposable” plastic bags actually are reused. Thus when comparing bags on the basis of "carbon footprint," many "reusable" bags are not much (if at all) better than plastic. As someone who is very involved with eco-friendly bags, I am becoming increasingly concerned that the well-meaning lawmakers who are banning plastic bags are taking their communities in the wrong direction.
Only a few minutes of research reveals that the ecological & social consequences of the most common replacement for plastic, polypropylene, are at least as negative as plastic. Even the seemingly "natural" cotton bag has an enormous carbon footprint because of the agriculture & manufacturing required to make it.
If you are choosing a reusable bag, look closely at a product such as the Nature Bag. Our eco-friendly bag is clearly beneficial for everyone concerned because of its long life-cycle, biodegradability, freedom from agricultural production, miniscule weight, stretchable versatility, absence of manufacturing, life-enriching impact on its at-home makers, practical beauty and thousands of years of rigorous in-use testing, refinement & sustainability.