We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Some Alternatives to Plastic Grocery Bags?

By Ken Black
Updated Jan 29, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Alternatives to plastic grocery bags are varied and readily available in a number of different forms. Some are likely at your local grocery store now. Others are being considered as community groups, and even governments, from across the country are looking into the possibility that alternatives may be not only better for the environment, but less harmful to the community's image.

The criticisms of plastic grocery bags are numerous, but there are two main points mentioned repeatedly. One, they have a long lifespan and tend to blow around, getting caught in trees and fence lines and becoming an eyesore. Two, they are made with petroleum products and thus deplete more natural resources and, in some cases, make countries more dependent on foreign sources of oil. These criticisms have prompted some to look into alternatives for plastic grocery bags.

Though some of the arguments may seem valid, it is important to clear up a popular misconception about plastic grocery bags. The vast majority of plastic grocery bags are not petroleum based; they are made from natural gas. Therefore, while the manufacturing of these bags may be using a natural resource nonetheless, it is a different type of natural resource than what most people may think.

Three decades ago, plastic bags were considered the answer to the first great concern of grocery bagging -- paper bags. Paper bags, it was argued, led to deforestation and thus harmed the environment a great deal. Many were told, if given the choice between paper and plastic, choose plastic.

Now times have changed. Paper bags, once again, are seemingly making a comeback as one of the alternatives to plastic grocery bags. Paper biodegrades much quicker than plastic and is not as harmful to the environment when it does degrade into smaller particles. Also, because most paper bags come from tree farms, not natural-growth forests, there is a change in attitude about how harmful paper is.

Another alternative to plastic grocery bags often mentioned is a different type of plastic bag. Instead of using natural gas-based plastic bags, the technology exists to make plastic bags using renewable sources, such as corn. This bag breaks down in months, instead of decades or centuries like traditional plastic bags. Further, because it is made from an agricultural product, the bags are not as harmful to the environment. Also, because the bag is made from a renewable resource, it is not depleting as many non-renewable resources.

In addition to one-use bags, such as paper or biodegradable plastic, one of the other alternatives to plastic grocery bags often mentioned are canvas bags. These bags can be reused, which is the most efficient form of recycling. These reusable shopping bags are often available for purchase at grocery stores and big box retailers for less than $5 USD per bag.

Some communities have looked into passing a law that requires most retailers to either use paper, reusable or biodegradable plastic made from agricultural products. In California, San Francisco was one of the first major cities to enact such a law. Others have also considered the measure, using the San Francisco law as a model.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon56665 — On Dec 16, 2009

Actually, plastic bags are often a better choice. One must remember to take manufacturing into account. paper bags use much more oil and energy to produce than plastic bags and take up much more space in landfills when not recycled. Cities should look more carefully into the science of their laws.

By anon19529 — On Oct 14, 2008

What are the big (30 gal, 1 mil+) bags made out of?

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.