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Does using a cotton bag help reduce plastic pollution?

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

Plastics have become such an integral part of the modern life that it’s nearly impossible to do without them. Many industries have benefitted from the use of plastic which became popular after the second World War. Food can be transported easily, medicines can be packed comfortably and cars can function efficiently because of plastic. And yet, plastics have become a menace that is too overwhelming for the world to handle.

in 1950, only 2.5 million tonnes of plastic was produced. In 2015 though, almost 448 million tonnes of plastic was produced. Where does all this waste go? Most of it ends up in the ocean. According to National Geographic, almost 8 million tonnes of plastic gets dumped in the oceans every year by the coastal countries. After they enter the sea, plastics are broken down into small particles (as small as one-fifth of an inch) called microplastics. Often times, they get consumed by marine animals which leads to entanglement and starvation. They also find their way to our dinner plates through fish and shrimp.

The problem is that even though we have managed to make plastics cheap and effective, we haven’t found a way to reduce its impact on the environment. Single-use plastic, which is used only for a few hours or minutes, constitutes 40% of the total plastic produced every year. It serves its purpose for a short time but it remains in the environment as non-biodegradable waste for several years.

Can using cotton bags help?

Due to the rising awareness about plastic pollution, single-use plastic bags have been banned in several cities across the world. Even though it may seem like a solution, science says that there are no clear answers.

According to a study in UK, cotton bags have to be used 131 times before they reduce their impact on the environment as compared to a plastic bag. Even though they are biodegradable, they use much more energy during the production stage.

Not all hope is lost though as bags made out of nonwoven polypropylene (which is a more durable kind of plastic) could be our best option. They need to be used just 11 times in order for them to have a lesser impact on the planet than plastic bags.

Understanding the plastics around us

You may have seen the recyclable sign in many products with plastic packaging. Look closely and you’ll find that different products have different signs and numbers. It’s because they have all been identified using the ASTM International Resin Identification Coding System (RIC). These numbers reveal the plastic resin used to make the product. Let’s take a look at the image below for exact segregation.

Check for these signs on the products we buy everyday.

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Just like polystyrene, even this form of plastic is non-recyclable. It can be found in bioplastics, wrapping paper, crisp wrappers and polycarbonate.

At Urruda, we believe there should be more awareness about the different kinds of plastics available to us. Sometimes, we may buy a product thinking it’s recyclable but it’s not. It’s imperative that we do our thorough research before investing in a product that may harm the environment.The next big crisis faced by mankind could be caused due to global warming. We need to take measures now or else it’ll be too late.

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