Skandi Rogers wrote:
I can't comment on plastic vs stainless but I do remember that single use plastic bags are energy wise much better than the thicker multi use plastic bags. You have to use a thick woven plastic bag over 50 times before it equals out. even paper bags are worse than plastic energy wise. And of course those two points only count if the single use bag is used 1 time only, if it is used twice and then turned into a bin bag, well you better use your thick one 150 times to cancel that out. If you use a cotton bag instead then you need to use it nearly 400 times to even out with using 400 disposable bags.
I live in an urban area. I see single use plastics flying around in the wind, hanging high up in trees, in bird nests, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Many of them eventually find their way into storm sewers and out into freshwater streams, rivers, and eventually the sea. They are also deposited on shorelines all down those same pathways. In many cases around the world, they end up in combined storm and sewer lines and clog intake screens at treatment plants. They are cleaned to remove plastics (bottles included) regularly and this is at considerable person hours and energy cost. Thus, even energy wise it isn't so simple. Paper bags break down and many of those issues are removed from the equation. I do agree however that reusing everything possible is the way to go. I use the plastic bags my folks generate until they can't hold much. I also use them for bagging plants and seeds I'm giving away. Decades ago, I bought a fair number of cotton bags. There was a large initial cost and initial energy input to get them into my hands. Again, I purchased most of mine but have thrifted and been given several as well. The initial order I've had about 30+ years. I've used them for groceries, building materials, temp storage, books, etc. They're in use daily. While I can tell which ones are the earliest (they're thinner now), they have kept countless thousands of bags out of our house/landfill. They also have never fallen apart while carrying heavy items. In the end, if they ever fail to be mended and used as bags, they will certainly lend some usable fabric. I do not believe the less than robust stats used for how many times a bag has to be reused in order to break even with plastics as the metrics don't take a lot into account. It's far more difficult to calculate over time, use variability, lifespan, even weight of the materials being used to make the bags. Given that, and my own experience, it's hard for me to see how cloth bags aren't first, then paper a far distant 2nd.
I'm no saint. I'm still a plastic user. I thrift topless bins for the garden for a buck (or less at garage sales), car, etc and use them until they shatter or become otherwise unusable for anything else. I have fleece clothing...most of which I've had for 10-20 years...one early heavily used pullover is from 1981! I have a car. There are bits and bobs everywhere but I'm not cavalier about it. I avoid it when I can, reuse all I'm able to, and recycle when I can no longer find a use. I routinely salvage/scrounge plastic items from which I think I can squeeze some extra life.