Organic Cotton Produce Bags and Why We Should Swap Out Plastic
As the saying goes, “All good things come to an end.” Fortunately in our case, there are some exceptions. On our journey to sustainability, one of the most pressing issues for us is the prevalence of single-use plastic carrier bags in our supermarkets.
Whilst the UK as a whole has taken massive leaps from where we were, even just 5 short years ago, there’s still a sizeable but solvable problem.
Organic Cotton Produce bags, also known as bags-for-life, are a long-term eco-friendly companion. These organically made bags are convenient for storing and carrying whilst being easy to wash and preserve in your home.
Many supermarkets have conveniently placed single-use carrier bags stored next to fruit and veg but cotton produce bags offer you a chance to reduce and reuse whilst avoiding the calamity that is plastic pollution.
How are cotton produce bags manufactured?
In the interest of transparency, it’s important to know how cotton produce bags are created.
First, you may have noticed that our cotton produce bags are labelled as ‘organic’. What is organic cotton and what differentiates it from regular cotton? To be truly organic, it has to be naturally grown cotton without any use of toxic pesticides and other synthetic chemicals.
Growth of organic cotton crops are typically rotated from area to area - this is to preserve the soil’s nutrients. Regular cotton is frequently harvested from the same area, a practice which degrades the soil quality over time and results in more and more synthetic chemicals being used to achieve the same result.
When choosing the manufacturer of our cotton produce bags, we were attentive and had strict criteria. Eventually we settled on a manufacturer with 14 years of experience creating plastic-free products.
One of the most important things we had to consider when choosing a manufacturer was that they were GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified.
This standard covers processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading and distribution of all textiles made from organic cotton. With certificates supplied by our manufacturers, along with various other certifications granted by SGS and BSCI certifications, we were confident that we had found a company whose values aligned with our own.
So how do such simplistic crops end up as carefully woven, eco-friendly carrier bags? After the organic cotton is harvested, it goes through a process called ginning, during which seeds and other debris are separated from the cotton. After separation, the organic cotton will be cleaned, flattened and spun in preparation to be washed, stitched and finalised.
Finally, we’re left with an incredible organic product intended for multifunctional use whilst lasting a lifetime. Printed in a variety of sizes, each cotton produce bag is a creative solution for carrying, storing and preserving fresh produce.
What makes organic cotton ethical and why are organic cotton bags great for the environment?
As mentioned, the idea behind organic cotton produce bags is that they are a viable alternative to using copious single-use plastic bags. As they are washable and durable, you can re-use them over and over - sparing the use of roughly 150 plastic bags a year. With over a billion plastic bag sales reported in England alone from 2018-2019, switching to a reusable bag will go a long way towards reducing plastic waste.
The produce bags are also biodegradable meaning that when it’s finally time to retire them, you can compost them where they will safely absorb back in to the soil. Of course, you can still up cycle and repurpose the bags if you’re not ready to let them go. Zero waste.
Looking towards ethics, organic cotton is GMO free which essentially means that small-scale farmers are free from the control of corporations like Monsanto who hold a monopoly on seeds and pesticides. These farmers are far more likely to practice regenerating to build healthier soils which also store more carbon in the ground. According to soilassociation.org, organic cotton emits up to 46% less greener gases than regular cotton.
These small-scale farmers also rely on rain water to grow organic cotton rather than water extraction from the ground which often negatively affects local communities’ water supply. This also means there’s less water contamination with hazardous chemicals - keeping local waterways, rivers and drinking water clean.
Practical uses of organic bags
With more and more people finding themselves in a position to choose alternatives to harmful products in the face of increasing pollution and environmental risks, organic cotton bags provides us with yet another simple swap.
Of course, the primary use of the produce bags is for carrying fruit and veg. Lightweight, breathable and durable, they are an ideal shopping companion allowing you to purchase fresh fruit, veg and bakery products without the need to use single-use carrier bags.
If you think carrying is where the benefits stop though - you’re mistaken! As the bags are designed in a mesh pattern, they double up as an ideal storage solution. For produce that likes air circulation, you can hang the mesh bag up containing tomatoes, onions, garlic and potatoes. Remember NOT to store onions with potatoes or in close proximity however as onions speed up the rotting process of potatoes.
For fruitier numbers like apples, oranges, peaches as well as carrots and other thick skinned produce, seal in the mesh bag and place in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.
Why you should make the change from single-use plastic bags.
I’m sure this is not the first time you’ve heard about the tremendous harm single-use plastic products have on our environment. Plastic is a synthetic polymer produced from petroleum. It serves for a wide variety of purposes, like construction, packaging, equipment and admittedly is very convenient to consumers. Its main advantage is that it's cheap and lightweight which suits a lot of retailers. Annually over 300 million tons of plastic is produced. But what percentage of this is biodegradable?
The simple answer is 0%, at least not in our life time or even our great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren’s lifetime. The process of decomposition takes up to 1000 years whilst simultaneously affecting our water and soil. Towards the end of decomposition, plastic breaks down into smaller pieces, known as micro-plastics. These smaller pieces in turn have easier access to food chains. While observing birds, scientists claim that they sometimes confuse plastic particles for food. With ocean species, it’s the same story but with the added risk of marine life becoming entangled by the debris. Hence, marine mammals happen to be at even greater risk. When we look at the numbers, we can see that more than 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans EVERY YEAR.
Moreover, Carroll Muffett, head of the Centre For International Environmental Law suggests that “Emissions from plastic production and incineration could amount to 56 gigatons of carbon between now and 2050.” That’s 56 billion tons of carbon released directly linked to plastic.
In order to reduce our carbon footprint, provide farmers with fair wages and stop the devastation currently engulfing our planet, we need to make the switch to eco-friendly options. Organic cotton produce bags are just one of the items we offer at goBambu. Feel free to see how we can help you achieve your sustainability goals.