Reusable bag materials: How do I know which option is best?

Bulletin Bag [.com] offers a wide selection of reusable bag materials. Our bags are made from many different fabrics. Each carries its own advantages and disadvantages. While it’s true that manufacturing and shipping reusable bags has an impact on the environment, all of our fabric choices are far more environmentally friendly than the alternative: single use paper or plastic bags.  High quality bags are often better for the environment in more ways than one.

So, how do you know which reusable bag material options are best for your needs? We’ve prepared this guide to help you in your decision!

COTTON options vary. Bulletin Bag [.com] offers traditional cotton, organic cotton and recycled cotton reusable bags. Organic cotton is grown without pesticides and is typically certified using global standards. Recycled cotton consists of reclaimed organic and traditional cotton scrap that would typically end up in a landfill.  The material is then reclaimed or spun into new yarn. Traditional Cotton production involves a raw, natural fiber, but requires more chemicals than any other crop.  Cotton canvas reusable grocery bags have been a popular choice throughout history because of its many advantages:

Advantages

  • Biodegradable/Natural plant fiber
  • Renewable resource
  • Strong and durable (material weight specified in ounces – cotton canvas reusable grocery bags are typically 8-12 ounces)
  • Soft, smooth and pleasant to the touch
  • Widely available in the USA and abroad
  • Can be machine washed with regular laundry (test-wash dyed and printed cotton bags in cold water with like colors)
  • Cotton provides the ideal ‘canvas’ for logo printing on reusable bags.  Most cotton bags are screenprinted using spot (solid) colors.  Full color heat transfers can be used for more detailed graphics.  Custom reusable cotton bags can also be direct printed in full color/full bleed

Disadvantages

  • Not moisture resistant unless chemically treated
  • High water consumption crop
  • Traditional (non-organic) cotton accounts for 16% of the world’s pesticides
  • Heavy, bulky and expensive to ship
  • Wrinkles and shrinks when machine washed. Screenprinting inks fade over time

Cotton reusable bags

HEMP grows well without pesticides or fertilizers and is drought tolerant. Each acre yields three to six tons of dry fiber. Hemp fibers are one of Earth’s longest, strongest and most durable fibers and are several times stronger than cotton.

Advantages

  • Extremely strong, durable, and rot resistant
  • Can grow in poor soils with little water
  • Refined hemp is soft, smooth and pleasant to touch
  • Most hemp reusable bags can be machine washed and dried
  • Hemp gets stronger over time and ‘breaks in’ nicely when used frequently
  • Hemp can be blended with other materials to make highly desirable, high end fabrics with texture similar to linen (hemp is typically blended with cotton, or recycled PET)

Disadvantages

  • Currently cannot be produced in US (hemp products in the western world are imported)
  • Can be expensive
  • Can be grainy, though most is refined.  Refined hemp uses a fair amount of water

Hemp reusable bags

JUTE is a natural plant fiber, often referred to as hessian or burlap.

Advantages

  • Natural renewable resource
  • Jute is biodegradable and compostable
  • Cultivated
  • Durable
  • Grows in high rainfall areas and require little to no pesticides or irrigation
  • Can be blended with other fabrics (like Jute made with Nonwoven Polypropylene)

Disadvantages

  • Not very resistant to moisture unless chemically treated or laminated
  • Grainy texture
  • Printing limited to thick lines and bold objects (no fine details)

Jute reusable bags

NONWOVEN POLYPROPYLENE is a form of plastic—a flexible resin polymer. The primary market measurement for nonwoven polypropylene bags is GSM (grams per square meter). GSM measures the weight and density of the material. The higher the GSM, the stronger the material. The fabric density is directly correlated to the quality and durability of the bag. GSM is indicated on almost all of our nonwoven polypropylene reusable bags. If it is not specified, please contact us for more information.

Advantages

  • Recyclable #5
  • Very strong
  • Can be made from recycled materials
  • Chemical resistant
  • May be woven (‘woven polypropylene’), making it less porous and easier to wipe clean
  • Wide variety of material color options
  • Flexible printing options.  Can be screenprinted (spot colors), printed in full color (heat transfer), printed in full color/full bleed or even laminated with a gloss or matte finish

Disadvantages

  • Type of plastic
  • Not biodegradable or compostable
  • Product of the petrochemical industry
  • Non-renewable resource
  • Not readily available in the USA
  • Not recommended for machine washing (hand wash or spray clean only)
  • Texture of the bag and thickness of inks used require fairly thick lines and larger font sizes

Nonwoven Polypropylene reusable bags

NYLON is a type of synthetic polymer originally made to replace silk in fabrics.

Advantages

  • Nylon is strong and durable
  • Lightweight material
  • Compacts easily – can be folded, stuffed in a pouch, and carried in a pocket, pocketbook, backpack or car cup holder
  • Easily dyed which creates interesting material color options
  • Water resistant
  • Can be screenprinted (spot colors) or printed using a full color heat transfer

Disadvantages

  • A petroleum-based product
  • Slow to break down
  • Heavy use can cause screenprinting inks to break down

Nylon reusable bags

POLYESTER is a polymer typically made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the same material found in drink bottles. Polyester can be recycled through reheating, thereby converting back into polymer fibers for further reuse.

Advantages

  • Versatile material
  • Polyester is resistant to water and mold-mildew
  • Resistant to crinkling
  • Compacts easily – can be folded, stuffed in a pouch, and carried in a pocket, pocketbook, backpack or car cup holder

Disadvantages

  • A form of plastic
  • Slow to break down
  • Heavy use can cause screenprinting inks to break down

Polyester reusable bags

RECYCLED PET is a durable, eco-friendly fabric made from post consumer recycled plastic bottles & containers. Using recycled PET reduces waste and conserves oil and non-renewable resources.  Reusable bags made from recycled PET create a market for post-consumer recycled materials.

Advantages

  • A form of plastic
  • The process of transporting, sorting and recycling post consumer waste expends energy and can create pollution (Remember: reduce, reuse, recycle — in that order)
  • Not recommended for machine washing (hand wash only)

Recycled PET reusable bags

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