Major Retailers Forgo Paper For Reusable

Urban Outfitters has made the switch to reusable shopping bags made from non-woven polypropylene (PPNW), and other retailers could soon follow suit as the cost factor isn’t a steep contrast to their current paper bags. In fact, reusable bags cost the same price as paper bags – between 30 and 70 cents – to produce.

Reusable Bags, canvas and plastic, photography by Amanda Wills

Some plastic #5 reusable bags cost as much to produce as a retail paper bag - about 30 to 70 cents per bag. Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911

Edison, N.J. based Prime Line Packaging designed the PPNW bag used at retailers like Urban Outfitters with the intent to encourage, “an eco-friendly mindset,” according to Irwin Abraham, president of Prime Line Packaging.

These bags can serve many other purposes beyond retail. Their strong and extremely lightweight design makes them ideal for grocery shopping, a book bag or even an overnight tote.

“It just makes sense to make something as trivial as a shopping bag into something I can use again,” says Aimee Black, 24, an Urban Outfitters frequenter. “Why wouldn’t I want to reuse it or have the option to recycle it?”

Paper bags are easily recyclable as most city programs accept them curbside, but contamination is a major concern. Because paper bags are recycled using water, greasy products can render the bags unrecyclable (remember, oil and water don’t mix). As for the standard flimsy plastic shopping bags, many retailers and grocers now offer in-store recycling.

Although reusable bags may be used over and over again, increased wear and tear will make their eventual retirement necessary. While these bags are made of the often hard-to-recycle plastic #5, many Whole Foods retailers will accept them for recycling through Preserve’s Gimme 5 program after they’ve maxed out their reuse potential.

“These bags are a great idea,” says Anna Baldwin, an Urban Outfitters shopper. “And they don’t cost more, which is a great reason for more companies to start providing them instead of plastic.”

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