RPET is an ideal fabric for reusable shopping bags, and is superior to other materials for a variety of reasons.
There are a great number of bags claiming to be environmentally friendly. These claims are usually based simply on the fact that they are not a single use plastic bag. Other times it is because they are made from natural or recycled fibres.
The harsh reality is that none of them are truly eco-friendly. They all require some raw material to construct the bag, they all need energy to produce, and virtually all require chemicals in manufacturing the fabric.
Figuring out the most sustainable solution is actually quite complicated, and many of the marketing claims made by many bag suppliers can be misleading. So for those interested, here is why we decided to use RPET, and our exact bag design…
Firstly the fabric, Recycled PET. We love natural fibres as much as anyone, but the more we researched the more we realized these are not always the best choice, at least not for now.
Cotton in particular is a very harsh crop, and usually requires large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers to grow, and many more chemicals for processing. Even organic cotton is very energy intensive, and is generally considered an unsustainable crop.
It is easy to be misled by data too. Organic hemp which is considered to have the lowest energy and CO2 footprints of any fabric does not quite tell the full story. You see, these measurements are based on per KG of fabric. But a bag made from RPET is extremely light, and requires much less fabric weight than does a bag made from a natural fibre.
We also need to consider what other uses the raw material could have been used for. Is making alternatives to all the world’s plastic bags the best use of such valuable crops? In the case of both cotton and hemp we would suggest that there are far more important products that need to be made from these resources, ones for which they are far more suited. If we were to try and replace the world’s plastic bag use with these fibres we would put pressure on them as a resource, and push their price up.
Then consider all of the existing plastic that we have that needs using. What is the best use for it? Many companies are now using it to produce fleece, which is a noble endeavour, but it turns out this is causing problems. The small fibres of fleece fabrics breakdown in the wash, causing our waterways to become polluted with plastic microfibres.
For a plastic bag alternative to be practical, even better perhaps than the bags they replace, it should be light and strong. Natural fabric bags can be strong, but when they are strong they are rarely that light. One on its own maybe okay, but when you need five or more to do a week’s shopping, they begin to get increasingly impractical.
There are now a range of compact, foldable, multiuse bags made from synthetics fibres (often nylon) that do provide a practical solution. The problem is that, unless made from recycled material, they are depleting the world’s limited resources. On top of this they require more energy to produce than an RPET fabric. While they may prevent single plastic bag use, they are far from an environmentally friendly solution.
There is another problem we have identified when looking into many of these ‘green’ alternatives. Ironically, most are just not made to last. They use low grade fabric, poor design, and budget manufacturing methods that result in bags that literally fall apart at the seams.
For a bag to be as sustainable as possible it should be designed to be used as many times as possible, and last for as long as possible. That is why Zenbags have been designed to last. We have spent a long time going back and forth to ensure every seam can take the weight and go the distance. It does cost a little more to use the best quality RPET fabrics, and use better construction methods, but this small cost pays back many times over, both financially and environmentally.
In addition to this, because Zenbags are so strong, we can make them just that bit larger than most. This means you can do your shopping with less of them. Again, making them more practical, and more sustainable.
Once a Zenbag does reach the end of its life, you can recycle it again so it can continue its journey to be repurposed as something else.
Because even recycled fabrics require energy to produce, and more energy will be needed to manufacture, transport, and eventually re-recycle your Zenbag, we plant a tree for every bag sold. Over the course of its life this tree will more than offset the carbon emissions produced by the entire process of creating and disposing of your Zenbag.
But we don’t stop there… We realize that there is a lot of clean-up required, and we want to help. Therefore 10% of profits from Zenbags go towards helping clean and protect our oceans.
We hope in the future there will be no plastic bottles, or other sources of plastic waste for us to make Zenbags from. But until that day comes we truly believe that Zenbags are currently the most sustainable solution to carry your shopping.