Not all reusable bags are created equal

Reusable bag torn

Reusable torn bag and bits

It turns out that some reusable bags aren’t reusable at all!

How do I know this? Well, about a year and a half ago, my husband received a free reusable bag from his new healthcare provider. The bag contained very useful information, a free pen and bonus, you get to keep the bag. We added the bag to our collection and promptly disregarded it. You see…we have a lot of reusable bags, but for some reason we always use our same four or five favorites and the rest just sit in the car.

A couple of months later, we were grabbing our reusable bags and I spotted the newer acquisition in the pile. “Let’s use this one!” I said. As we were checking out at Trader Joe’s, I started packing things as I normally do. (I don’t know about your Trader Joe’s, but the one near us is always crazy busy and you feel a certain pressure to get moving.) I lifted the new bag up to put it in the cart and in a split second, everything in the bag was on the floor. It happened so fast it took me awhile to process what had actually happened.

We never got to use that reusable bag because it didn’t even last one shopping trip. What a joke! Then I thought, maybe I should write about this and so I kept it as a reminder. Also, I wanted to take a picture of it for the post.

Well, as is frequently the case in my place (don’t judge), I put the ripped bag in the closet and promptly forgot about it. You see, hoarding runs on both sides of my family and I am an expert at putting things somewhere and then forgetting about them, things that you really don’t need to be keeping around, like an unusable reusable bag.

Now, a year and half later, the bag would not let me forget. As it was sitting there in the closet, it proceeded to disintegrate. When I went in to retrieve things, sometimes they would come out with green particles attached. Then a fine green dust started to appear in certain places. And finally, it got so bad I could no longer ignore the situation. I had to take everything out of the closet and vacuum up green dust and particles.

What is the point of this story? The point is that no company should be making reusable bags that literally disintegrate within a year and a half. That’s even worse than a plastic bag, so lame! The bag was also partially made of plastic, so I got to witness first hand in my closet what happens to plastic in the ocean. It breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, but never really goes away.

Now that reusable green bag is headed to a landfill, a big waste. The moral of the story is…beware of crappy reusable bags. Companies should do their homework, if you want reusable bags to plaster your logo on, make sure it’s something that lasts otherwise you may just leave a bad impression. For the rest of us, it’s best to invest in canvas bags that contain no plastic and take a closer look at the next freebie you receive. It may not be worth it, even if it’s free.




  1. says

    Thank-you for the effort you went to, to inform us on an important issue. You described it perfectly. Canvas bags are much better.
    I’m also thinking back to when supermarkets packed our shopping in big strong paper bags. People will worry that we chop down trees to make them, but surely, if paper products are required then it will be necessary to plant trees to fill that demand. Okay so we chop them in the end to make paper but while they’re growing they’re helping the air and when we do chop them we must plant more if we are to continue providing paper. I’m all for using wood and paper, so expanding our forests and increasing the need to plant more trees.
    Okay so these forests are not the lovely native forests that once were there, but they’re environmentally better than no forest at all.

    • Carolyn Kraft says

      Hi Tui, Thanks for your comment! It’s great if people can use reusable bags, but there are even more options out there now when it comes to paper as well. I would have to research this a bit more but I think bamboo is a nice new alternative to trees for many paper products.

  2. krafty88 says

    Yikes! What an awful mess. I just got the coolest reusable bag from the GA sea turtle center that is canvas on the outside and lined with recycled plastic on the inside so it is waterproof. It came free with our purchase! A high quality bag indeed. Although I have such a plethora of reusable bags, a few boxes full!

    • Carolyn Kraft says

      The bag from the GA Sea Turtle Center sounds awesome! I too have a plethora of reusable bags. We have a lot in common! I’ve given many away, but I still have too many. I’m convinced they have figured out a way to reproduce when I’m not watching.

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