The conventional plastic bag is the one with the least environmental impacts.
The Frontline Defense Against Plastic Bag Bans and Taxes Nationwide
The American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance (ARPBA) represents the U.S. plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry, which employs thousands of workers in 40 states. Founded in 2005, the ARPBA proactively promotes product lines and leads numerous public policy initiatives that serve as the frontline defense against plastic bag bans and taxes nationwide.
With the support of the industry’s workers, the ARPBA promotes American-made plastic products that are the smartest, most environmentally friendly choice at the checkout counter for both retailers and consumers.
A canvas tote bag needs to be reused at least 131 times to have a lower impact than a plastic bag used once.
Standard reusable cotton grocery bags must be reused 131 times "to ensure that they have lower global warming potential than" a plastic bag used only once.
Nearly 30,000 hardworking men and women are employed and supported by the plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes – Plastic bags are 100% reusable and recyclable.
According to Recyc-Quebec, a Canadian government agency:
Cotton or canvas bags need to be reused between 100 and 2,954 times.
Reusable woven polypropylene bags need to be reused between 16 to 98 times.
Reusable non-woven polypropylene bags need to be reused 11 to 59 times.
According to the UK Environment Agency:
Paper bags need to be reused 3 times.
Reusable non-woven polypropylene bags need to be reused 11 times.
Cotton or canvas bags need to be reused 131 times.
According to the Denmark Environmental Protection Agency:
Paper bags need to be reused 43 times.
Reusable non-woven polypropylene bags need to be reused 52 times.
Reusable woven polypropylene bags need to be reused 45 times.
Conventional cotton bags need to be reused 7,100 times.
Organic cotton bags need to be reused 20,000 times.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 35,000 people.
No – multiple cities across the country have discovered that plastic bag bans create problems rather than solve them. When consumers are forced to use replacement bags – which are often made of thicker, heavier plastic – that contributes more to waste than the typical plastic grocery bag.
Yes – especially small businesses. Bans can increase costs, making it hard for businesses to comply.
Use our Find My Recycling Center tool to learn where you can recycle your bags.
Your plastic bags may get a new life as eco-friendly raw material for playgrounds, construction materials and new plastic bags.
No – plastic bags are reused by Americans every day. Plastic bags are also 100% recyclable.
In the News
ARPBA’s Matt Seaholm joined the Joe Piscipo Show to discuss New York’s upcoming plastic bag ban. The new law takes effect on Sunday, March 1, but it is unworkable in its current form. Neither businesses nor consumers are prepared for the ban. In the interview, Seaholm and Piscipo also discuss the nationwide shortage of paper bags as well as a shortage of reusable bags imported from China.
While plastic bag bans are being lauded by environmentalists and the local governments that support them, some are questioning whether the move will be effective, primarily because of the unintended environmental consequences associated with replacement materials such as paper, thick plastic, and reusable bags. This article quotes ARPBA’s Matt Seaholm, who says, “Every independent life cycle assessment that has looked at various bagging options has found that the common plastic grocery bag, when disposed of properly, has the least environmental impact. Paper has its purposes and should be an option that consumers can choose from, but there is no doubt that it takes more material, energy and water to manufacture than plastic, and its weight and bulkiness necessitate seven trucks to transport the same number of bags that can be hauled in just one truck of plastic.”
Consumers might have a tough time getting their hands on a bag made of any material to carry goods. Experts have previously warned about a paper bag shortage that will be exasperated nationally once New York’s ban on single-use plastic bags takes effect on March 1. There are now concerns about a possible shortage of reusable bags as the result of a halt on exports out of China amid the coronavirus outbreak. “When there’s a dramatic increase in bags and then you apply that to the market disruptions [in China], it stands to reason there could be supply chain issues with the massive increase in demand,” ARPBA’s Matt Seaholm told the Staten Island Advance. “Reusable bags from China are 100% plastic — they’re not organic, and that is a huge increase in the amount of plastic being used. That’s where there’s an unintended consequence.”