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May 12, 2018

Are cotton totes better for the Earth than plastic bags? It depends on what you care about

A year or so ago, I decided to start using less plastic. I bought an insulated water bottle for my morning coffee, as well as bee’s wax wraps to replace cellophane, and I largely stopped putting my groceries in plastic bags. Instead, I switched to cotton tote bags.

I felt really good about myself, until I saw a report published earlier this year by Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food that said that plastic bags are better for the environment than organic cotton tote bags. In fact, of all the shopping bags the study looked at — from paper to recycled plastic — cotton tote bags fared the worst: they need to be reused thousands of times to have the same environmental footprint as a lightweight plastic bag, according to the report. A...

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