Cotton shopping bags are creating a whole new crisis – Earth – Science and technology

Some time ago, London artist Venetia Berry counted the cotton bags that had accumulated in her closet. There were at least 25 of them – bags from the ecological fashion brand REFORMATION and from retro-shops, bags from Soho House, boutique country hotels and independent art shops. Two bags were from Cubbits optics and one even from a garlic farm. “I get them without a choice,” she told The New York Times.

Cotton bags have become a means as brands, retailers and supermarkets show that they are thinking of the welfare of our planet – or at least realize how harmful the excessive use of plastics in packaging is. “In New York, it’s now trendy to carry cotton bags from local delicacies, shops or popular steak restaurants,” said designer Rachel Comey.

The right step in the ecological direction? Not really. It turns out that the well-thought-out adoption of cotton bags has in fact created a new problem. A 20,000 cotton bag would need to be used to make up the overall impact on its production, a study by the Danish Ministry of the Environment found in 2018.

This equates to the daily use of a single bag for up to 54 years. If all 25 Venetia Berry bags were organic, then she would have to live more than a thousand years to evaluate her current arsenal.

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“Cotton is extremely water-intensive,” said Travis Wagner, a professor of ecology at the University of Maine. It is also linked to forced labor to uncover how the Uighur minority is being treated in China’s Xinjiang region, which produces 20 percent of the world’s cotton and supplies it to most of the world’s Western brands.

In addition, finding a way to dispose of such a bag with an environmentally low impact is not nearly as simple as people might think. For example, you cannot put a cotton bag in a compost bin. And only about 15 percent of the 30 million tons of cotton produced each year will find its way into textile waste.

Even if the bag ends up in a special facility processing textile waste, in most cases a PVC-based fabric is used to print the logo – and it is not recyclable.

“It’s extremely challenging to chemically dissolve these logos,” said Christopher Stanev, co-founder of Evrnu in Seattle, which specializes in textile recycling. Not to mention that the question then arises as to whether to turn old clothes into new ones, which consumes almost as much energy as producing completely new ones.

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The cotton shopping bag dilemma is a really good example of when people are trying to make a positive decision without understanding the big picture, said Laura Balmond, project manager for the Let the Fashion Round the Ellen MacArthur Foundation campaign.

It was probably British designer Anya Hindmarch who helped promote the reusable cotton shopping bag. Her 2007 “I’m Not a Plastic Bag” bag, created in collaboration with the environmental agency Swift, was sold in supermarkets for about ten dollars. Its goal was to encourage customers to stop buying plastic bags – and the initiative began to spread rapidly.

It is only natural that cotton bags quickly became advertising tools. The famous cream-black bag of the New Yorker weekly became a symbol of status, and the weekly has distributed two million of them to its subscribers since 2014. Many companies use these bags not only as proof of social and environmental sustainability, but also as free advertising – and the customers who carry their bags are actually walking billboards.

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No one wants to say that cotton is worse than plastics, or that the two materials are comparable at all. While pesticides can be used to grow cotton and dry rivers to consume water, the production of lightweight plastic bags and sacks consumes fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases, this material never biodegrades and floods the oceans.

“When these two materials are judged against each other, we end up in an ecological heel, where customers get the impression that there is no solution,” said Melanie Dupuis, a professor of ecology at Pace University.

Some brands are already resorting to other textile solutions. British designer Ally Capellin recently traded cotton for hemp, while Hindmarch recently introduced a new version of her original bag, this time made from recycled water bottles.

Source: – Veda a technika by

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