Synthetic "Reusable" Bags are NOT sustainable or natural for the planet.

Plastic bags are taking a beating by the public these days and a few forward thinking companies are trying to come up with better alternatives.

The impetus for creating “green” alternatives comes from good intentions and a lot of our competitors are small start up companies, trying to make their self-employed dreams come true and do something good for the environment at the same time.

The problem is 90% of the reusable bags we see out there are not much better than plastic bags. The reusable bags are made from petroleum fuel stocks, do not function as well as the conventional plastic bags that they are supposed to replace, and just like plastic bags, are pollutants and contaminates in their disposal phase.

Let’s walk through a few of our green washing competitor fabrics and make things clear:

Polyester Mesh Bags:

Mesh produce / bulk bags – whether they are polyester or nylon are basically a façade of a reusable bag and add very little value. They don’t replace plastic bags if you can’t conveniently carry home or store your food items in them. So basically they are more of a burden on the environment to produce than single-use plastic bags because they don’t fulfill any many  functions.

Why do we think that they're so bad?

  1. If you try to carry home wet produce in mesh bags you end up with a wet mess on your other groceries because water drips through the mesh holes.
  2. Some companies say right on the package the bags are not meant to store produce. This is because they allow too much air flow and don’t keep any moisture in.
  3. You can try carry home some bulk foods, but not rice, flour, granola, small beans or other grains because they go right through the mesh holes.
  4. Plus all your bulk food will be exposed to germs and dirt and everything big enough to enter through the mesh.

Production of polyester cannot be sustained indefinitely because the raw material, oil, is a non-renewable resource, which will, in time, run out.

The manufacturing process involves high energy inputs which, unless sourced from renewable energy, generate large amounts of particulates, CO2, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, sulphur oxides and carbon monoxide subsequently released as atmospheric emissions . Polyester production requires approximately ten times more energy than Organic Cotton and currently emits four times as much CO2. However, the overall best performer between cotton, hemp, and polyester in the Ecological Footprint context is Traditional Organic Hemp.

Major water-borne emissions from polyester production include dissolved solids, acids, iron and ammonia .

Toxic Chemicals used in the production of polyester are

Antimony: 80 – 85% of all polyester produced uses antimony as a catalyst.

  • Antimony is a carcinogen, and toxic to the heart, lungs, liver and skin. Long term inhalation causes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Antimony leaches out of fabric during dying. Countries that can afford technologies that precipitate the metals out of the water are left with a hazardous sludge that must then be disposed of in a properly managed landfill or incinerator operations. Countries who cannot, or who are unwilling to employ these end-of-pipe treatments, release antimony along with a host of other dangerous substances to open waters.

Ethylene Glycol: In the United States alone, an estimated 1 billion lbs of spent Ethylene Glycol (a raw material in PET production) is generated each year.

  • The EG distillation process creates 40 million pounds of still bottom sludge. When incinerated, the sludge produces 800,000 lbs of fly ash containing antimony, arsenic and other metals.

Nylon requires the most energy of all fibers to create.

  • Nylon not only produces emissions of CO2, but emissions of N2O, which is a greenhouse gas 300 times more damaging to global warming than CO2 .
  • Because of its long life (120 years) it can also reach the upper atmosphere and deplete the layer of stratospheric ozone, which is an important filter of UV radiation. In fact, during the 1990s, N2O emissions from a single nylon plant in the UK were thought to have a global warming impact equivalent to more than 3% of the UK’s entire CO2 emissions.
  • Nylon comes in several types; the most commonly used in textiles includes nylon 6 and nylon 6,6. Nylon 6 uses e-caprolactam, which is made from benzene and other toxic chemicals and it produces tons of byproducts (i.e., hydrogen cyanide gas in production of polymer).


Compostable plastic bags are marketed as the green solution to plastic bags. Are they really?

The cartoon this page is from a great source of information on green washing Our Breathing



  1. Politics of Plastic
  2. ReUsing vs Single-Use
  3. Buy Hemp Reusable Bags

Green Washing: The practice of making unsubstantiated or misleading claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service, and technology or company practice.

This “green” marketing is used to manipulate popular opinion to support otherwise questionable aims for financial or political gain.

The Great Green Washing approach to reusable bags is the claim that replacing plastic bags with plastic bags (polyester, nylon, and polypropylene) is the sure way to help the environment.

If we are going to bother to replace plastic, let’s hope we choose something that actually makes a difference.

The evidence is clear that plastics, no matter how you melt or weave them, are NOT sustainable or natural for the planet.

Instead of helping the planet, the various “green bags” are actually making matters worse.

If our Hands On Hemp reusable produce bags and bulk bags weren’t both functional and sustainable we would quit today.

Our reason for being is to help the planet and it's very important to us that our bags "walk their talk!"

The big problem with reusable Green Washed Bags that are made from mesh or other plastic is that unsuspecting consumers, who want a good green bag alternative, buy these bags, find out they don’t work and then go back to plastic bags with a bad taste in their mouths.


We are a woman-owned business whose vision is two-fold: to make a difference through what we do and how we do it. It is not easy to better our selves or our world, but we know the two go hand in hand. Our bags have taken us to the very brink of an ultimate question: what is true personal and planetary sustainability and what changes do we need to make to get from here to there? We hope to inspire such a journey of questioning for others as we’re all in the same boat together. (Learn more)

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