Reusable Shopping Bags

Published On May 4, 2015

According to statistics the global consumption of plastic bags is between 500 billion and a trillion annually or a million bags every minute. This huge consumption of plastic bags creates an enormous environmental problem. There are two ways of addressing this environmental problem.

Firstly, if we can utilise reusable bags which have a long life span and therefore can be repeatedly reused consumption will be proportionately decreased as compared to the use of single use plastic bags. The second alternative, which I consider below, is to use compostable or biodegradable bags.

If you require reusable bags made from 100% natural plant fibres then see our jute bags collection or cotton bags collection. If you require reusable bags that are available for immediate delivery and are unprinted, then visit our Stock Bags page and don’t miss the amazing groundbreaking prices of these bags.

I have listed below some of the various types of reusable bags which are commonly available along with their respective pros and cons.

Reusable Bags

Non Woven Polypropylene bags


  • Can be recycled
  • Strong and durable
  • Can be made from recycled materials
  • Chemical resistant
  • Very cheap to produce
  • Better for printing and dyeing than jute or calico bags.


  • Polypropylene is a form of plastic.
  • Bags are not biodegradable or compostable.
  • Polypropylene is a product of the petrochemical industry.
  • Non renewable resource.
  • Ultimately adds to global plastic pollution if not recycled or disposed of properly.

Reusable bags made from natural jute

Jute is a natural plant fibre, often known as hessian or burlap.


  • Natural renewable resource
  • Biodegradable and compostable
  • One of the strongest natural fibres
  • Cultivated
  • Durable
  • Jute crops usually grow in high rainfall areas and require little or no pesticides or additional irrigation.
  • Provides income and employment in developing countries.


  • Not very resistant to moisture unless chemically treated or laminated.
  • More expensive than non woven polypropylene bags.
  • Normally heavier thicker fabric with increased freight costs compared to polypropylene or cotton.
  • Not so good for printing and dyeing as polypropylene bags.

Organic cotton or calico reusable bags

Conventional or chemically grown cotton requires huge amounts of pesticides so is not an option from an environmental perspective.


  • Natural plant fibre.
  • Renewable resource.
  • Commonly available bags not as expensive as jute bags.
  • Strong and durable.


  • Not water resistant unless chemically treated
  • Unless organically grown, cotton requires a huge amount of pesticide.
  • High water consumption crop.
  • Not as economical as non woven polypropylene bags.
  • Not so good for printing and dyeing as polypropylene bag.

Reusable canvas bags


  • Soft fabric
  • Natural plant fibre.
  • Stronger and more durable than cotton bags.


  • Unless the cotton is grown organically, high levels of pesticides are used
  • Fully processed cotton required extensive additional treatment
  • High water consumption crop.
  • Not as economical as non woven polypropylene bags.
  • Not so good for printing and dyeing as polypropylene bags.

Biodegradable bags or compostable bags

As an alternative to the above reusable bags many companies supply shopping bags made from biodegradable plastics, bioplastics or corn starch based plastics which conform to current standards for compostability or biodegradability. While these bags may compost rapidly under certain environmental conditions, unsuitable conditions will result in more prolonged breakdown and more environmental accumulation of these bags. The anaerobic conditions existing in landfills also does not favour the breakdown of these bags. Additionally, the accumulation of biodegradable bags in litter streams will prevent recycling of other plastics with which they are mixed.

But perhaps the main problem with biodegradable bags is that their short useful life span means consumption of bags would be increased significantly as compared to durable reusable shopping bags. Compared to the use of reusable bags there would therefore be much more litter produced and much more resources and energy used in production.

Ideally we either need natural biodegradable reusable bags which may be disposed of with no residual environmental effects, or, on the other hand, we need bags which are 100% recyclable and in this case of course, we would also need a high degree of community co-operation to achieve a high recycling rate. Since contamination of litter streams with biodegradable materials makes recycling impossible the two options are incompatible unless this contamination can be prevented.

It is for the above reasons that most experts today recommend the use of durable reusable bags.

See Albury Enviro Bags‘ selection of reusable non woven bags, jute bags, and cotton bags.