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Sustainability: The Use of Cloth Bags Over Single-Use Plastics

Sustainability is an endeavour that everyone should adopt for the development and growth of society in a forward-leaning manner, which gives rise to my project on using cloth bags instead of single plastic bags. One way to ensure this is by reducing and eradicating single-use plastic bags. Countries across the globe have introduced laws to ban plastic bags, with some, such as South Africa and Canada, imposing taxes on plastic bags (Dunn et al., 2014). In some cases, like Indonesia, non-monetary measures have been employed, imploring the importance of reusable plastic bags, which has worked to sway citizens (Spranz et al., 2018).

Efforts to ensure reduced use of plastic bags have given rise to alternatives made of cloth or carrier bags, made from plant-based polymers such as sisal and reduction in plastic bags, elaborated in the graph below. Plastic bags are easily damaged and lead to white pollution, thus the introduction of reusable bags to help curb this problem (Gómez & Escobar, 2022, p. 110). Through this imperative shift, countries and individuals are taking critical steps to reduce environmental pollution and ensure biodiversity safety by protecting their ecosystems. In this regard, I chose a sustainable lifestyle project that promotes using cloth bags and reduces plastic packaging to save resource waste and reduce the damage of white pollution to the environment.

Effectiveness of Intervetions on Use of Plastic Bags Globally

Figure from (Adeyanju et al., 2021).

Change is difficult but necessary. In the eyes of many people who view plastic bags as a norm, trying to change the use of cloth bags is met with pessimism and criticism. This criticism is because cloth bags may be perceived as not easy to wash and carry, as some scholars suggest (Wang & Li, 2022). Human activities have already transformed the world, causing irreversible damage. But by choosing cloth bags, we help mitigate the environmental havoc caused by plastic bag production, which involves using non-renewable fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Embracing cloth bags curtails the massive plastic pollution problem that plagues the world. By making this crucial shift in our daily habits, we can contribute to a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable environment for future generations.

In my active research, I found that cloth bags greatly benefit our daily lives and the environment. The first of these advantages is the reduction of waste disposed by addressing the issue of single-use disposable items. Unlike plastic bags, which are typically used once and discarded due to their cheap nature, cloth bags are reusable and durable. Cloth bags have a higher lifespan than plastic bags allowing consumers repeated use, often hundreds of times, reducing the demand for continuous production and subsequent disposal. Cloth bags follow the 5 R’s of waste management. The first R stands for refuse, which is every person’s choice to refuse to use plastic bags. Making cloth bags can be done from old jeans and sturdy clothes, which covers the principle of repurposing. Cloth bags can also be reused and recycled, which helps reduce environmental waste.

The second significant benefit I learnt is the aspect of biodegradability. Biodegradability refers to the ability of a material to break down naturally into simpler, non-toxic substances by the action of microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and other living organisms, over time. Biodegradability is a desirable attribute that ensures that if cloth bags are improperly disposed of, they will not persist on the earth for decades, just as plastics do. It is essential to understand that the biodegradability of cloth bags depends on the material used to make the bag. Some materials may take longer to decompose than others. Biodegradability follows the principle of a cyclical economy, where resources are efficiently used, and waste is highly minimized. Despite this progress, biodegradable polymers have a long way to go before becoming highly effective.

The third benefit is the creation of a sustainability culture. Trends and fashion drive our world. People asked about my bags. Research has shown that going green and smart is critical to increased sustainability. Cloth bags can be made in stylish designs, which can be very helpful in shifting people’s perspectives. Bags can be made in various designs, allowing individuals to express their style while making an eco-friendly fashion statement. Fashion designers and brands can incorporate sustainable and aesthetically pleasing designs into their cloth bags.

Additionally, customization of the bags can lead to a better emotional attachment between the bag and its owner, reducing the likelihood of discarding the bag too quickly. Research also posits that the long-lasting nature of economical bags makes them a good substitute for plastic bags (Kaplan et al., 2018, p. 140). Green events such as the sustainable innovation expo can feature cloth bags, inspiring designers and consumers to embrace sustainability as a core principle.

Despite my project and research highlighting these essential benefits, the one challenge I faced was the rate at which cloth bags had to be washed due to bacteria. Once used to carry goods such as vegetables and meat produce, these items leave behind dirt and residue that may breed bacteria, leading to contamination of the bag’s interior if the bag is not properly cleaned. Research by Williams et al. (2011) has also shown cross-contamination to be a significant challenge in using these bags. Additionally, the cleaning aspect of the cloth bags affects the attitudes and norms of people and makes it difficult for people to choose them (Muposhi et al., 2021, p. 320). When exposed to moisture from vegetables, these bags may become damp, which can again create a breeding ground for bacteria and encourage mould growth. It is important to note that these cloth bags need constant washing after use. Additionally, to solve this problem, I used different bags for different products. I used separate cloth bags for groceries and personal items to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Bags at risk of contamination were regularly inspected and cleaned.

In conclusion, materials to make cloth bags are easy to obtain using old clothes that people hoard and keep without use. Secondly, adding a design to a bag adds appeal, leading to more people asking about the bags and changing consumer attitudes. Economically and environmentally, cloth bags are also better in relation to plastic bags as you do not have to buy multiple bags over a long period, reducing waste and becoming easier on one’s pocket. Minimal challenge met my endeavour, and it is one I recommend all to take up and join in the sustainability lifestyle.


Adeyanju, G. C., Augustine, T. M., Volkmann, S., Oyebamiji, U. A., Ran, S., Osobajo, O. A., & Otitoju, A. (2021). Effectiveness of intervention on behaviour change against use of non-biodegradable plastic bags: A systematic review. Discover Sustainability2(1), 1–15.

Dunn, J., Caplan, A. J., & Bosworth, R. (2014). Measuring the value of plastic and reusable grocery bags. Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy3(2), 125–147.

Gómez, I. D. L., & Escobar, A. S. (2022). The dilemma of plastic bags and their substitutes: A review on LCA studies. Sustainable Production and Consumption30, 107–116.

Kaplan, B. A., Gelino, B. W., & Reed, D. D. (2018). A Behavioral Economic Approach to Green Consumerism: Demand for Reusable Shopping Bags. Behaviour and Social Issues27(1), 20–30.

Muposhi, A., Mpinganjira, M., & Wait, M. (2021). Factors influencing the use of non-plastic reusable shopping bags: A cognitive-normative-habitual approach. Australian Journal of Environmental Education37(3), 306–325.

Spranz, R., Schlüter, A., & Vollan, B. (2018). Morals, money or the master: The adoption of eco-friendly reusable bags. Marine Policy96.

Wang, B., & Li, Y. (2022). Consumers’ Intention to Bring a Reusable Bag for Shopping in China: Extending the Theory of Planned Behavior. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health19(6), Article 6.

Williams, D., Maxwell, S., & Sinclair, R. (2011). Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags. Food Protection Trends31, 508–513.


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