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Feb 012011
 

From Green Right Now Reports

Reusable shopping bags, which once seemed like such a no-brainer solution to the problem of proliferating plastic bags and single-use paper bags, became the focus of a micro-scandal late last year when some bags turned up with traces of lead on them.

These bags, which were apparently made in China and contained lead in the painted branding, were  recalled or discontinued by the grocery stores involved. But opponents of reusable bags — that is to say, plastic bag makers and their lobbyists – seized on these events. They declared the death of the reusable bag trend and decorated tree branches with discarded plastic bags to celebrate. (Calm down, I’m kidding.)

Then came the next bag debacle: News reports that reusable bags contained E coli and other harmful bacteria. The Center for Consumer Freedom, a Washington lobbying group that also fights smoking bans, and defends Americans rights to eat fatty foods, soda and produce grown with pesticides, were gloating again.

The "Workhorse Hemp Bag" from Reuseit.com is free of stenciling and can be washed.

In an article “Momma’s Got a Brand New Bag (That’s Full of Lead)” (with a headline borrowed from a broader story on the topic in USA Today), the CCF sputtered that this reusable bag trend “is the sort of thing that happens when government tries to manipulate our behavior.”

Strip away the hyperventilating, and the piece actually makes one valid point: These reusable bags we’re using could probably stand to be washed or wiped out from time to time. No one wants to be breeding bacteria in their grocery tote.

Yet most of the totes we are accumulating — from the grocery store, at community events — are probably not washer-worthy. They’re cheap 99-cent branding vehicles.  One spin cycle and most of them would be in tatters.

The Center for Consumer Freedom says we should go back to safe, sanitary (until it’s floating around on the roadside) single-use plastic bags. But the folks at Chicago-based Reuseit.com have reached a more logical conclusion: Get a better bag.

Try getting one made of hemp, bamboo or organic cotton fibers, says Natalie Slater, community manager for Reuseit.com. Then you’ve got something that’s sturdy, but soft and can be easily washed, by hand or in some cases, the washer.

Envirosax' floral collection, a set of five reusable bags.

She suggested the Hemp Workhorse, available in a variety of colors (see above), the Hemp Dual-Handled Tote or the Bamboo Tote Bag. All retail in the $5 to $10 range.

Other quality, but affordable grocery totes are made of recycled PET plastic, which produces a sturdy nylon-type fabric that can be wiped clean. Along with its own house brand, Reuseit carries the popular Envirosax, which are fashionable, rain-proof replacements for plastic bags, notes Vincent Cobb, founder of Reuseit.com.

Cobb recommends that consumers buy a few sturdy reusable bags, instead of accumulating a raft of freebies or poorly made bags that will soon fall apart, or may have imprinting that could flake off — and defeat the purpose of trying to cut back on needless consumption.

”We’ve always evangelized, buy a handful of reusable bags and use them,” Cobb said. “Resist consuming it in the first place.”

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