Antimicrobial Bags for Life - Reduced Waste, Increased Product Protection

Written by Jocelyn Portal, Global Marketing Intern

What Are Reusable Shopping Bags?

A reusable shopping bag (also known as a bag for life in the UK) is an alternative to single-use paper or plastic bags that can be reused multiple times. Reusable bags can be made from fabrics, natural fibers, or woven synthetic fibers. The majority of reusable bags are made from a thick plastic that is more durable than the thin, flimsy, disposable plastic bags you get from grocery stores, retail stores, or apparel shops.

The majority of reusable bags are offered in British supermarkets following their imposed levy on disposable plastic bags. They can be sold for 5-10 pence and replaced for free. This incentive and added durability encourage customers to reuse these bags many times or until they begin to break down. After a person has used their bag for life multiple times, they are encouraged to recycle the bag in order to reduce their environmental impact.

Why Bother?

Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide. On average, each of these bags is used for only 12 minutes before being disposed of, creating an abundance of plastic waste that harms organic life.

Reusable bags are important because, if used correctly, they can actively reduce the amount of plastic waste produced by stores every day. After the 5p bag charge came into effect in England, the country reported an 83% reduction in single-use bags. This was a major success in the fight against plastic waste.

Are Bags for Life Contributing to More Plastic Waste?

Despite being heralded as a way to reduce single-use plastic, sales of bags for life have actually contributed to an increase in plastic waste. This is largely due to the bag itself being a breeding ground for microbes.

Microbiologists have identified several strains of bacteria proliferating in reusable bags. These bacteria find their way into the bag via raw meat packaging, food residues and other contaminants. If the bag is left unsanitized, the bacteria start to cause staining and bad odors, leading consumers to prematurely dispose of the bag and purchase another one. After all, no-one wants to cart their shopping around in a stained and smelly bag.

Reusable bags have enormous potential to significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste produced every year. But, in order to make them more environmentally friendly, they must have added incentives to be used multiple times.

For added cleanliness and product protection against unwanted microbes, people using reusable bags should:

  1. Be careful to separate raw foods from other food products.
  2. Not use the same reusable food bags for other purposes such as carrying books or gym clothes.
  3. Avoid storing meat or produce in the trunks of their cars. Higher temperature promotes the growth of bacteria, which can contaminate reusable bags.
  4. Look for reusable bags with built-in antimicrobial product protection!

Built-in antimicrobial technologies can add countless sustainability benefits to plastics, textiles and other materials

Antimicrobial Bags for Life: The Future of Shopping

Reusable bags for life can definitely benefit from built-in antimicrobial technology. A reusable bag featuring antimicrobial product protection has the ability to reduce the number of bacteria that reside on its surface.

This added layer of protection can help the bag stay cleaner, fresher, and more durable for longer. Enhanced product longevity can give customers a greater incentive to reuse these bags without worrying about stains, odors and the presence of harmful bacteria that may come from produce and perishable foods.

Built-in antimicrobial technology provides an active layer of defense against microbes by continuously inhibiting their growth on the surface and interior of the bag.

Working at a cellular level, the technology disrupts the vital life processes and biological functions of contaminating microbes. As a result, they cannot grow or reproduce on the surface of the treated bag and subsequently die. This proactive product protection keeps the bag cleaner before, during and after use. What’s more, the antimicrobial properties operate 24/7 and will not wash off or wear away.

It is important to note that while antimicrobial protection helps prevent the growth of unwanted microbes on treated products, it should not replace regular cleaning practices.

The Benefits of Reusable Shopping Bags Featuring Microban® Technology

Microban® antimicrobial technology can be incorporated into reusable bags through the manufacturing process. To make an antimicrobial reusable bag from non-woven polypropylene (PP) material, recycled masterbatch plastic pellets are first melted down to create a basis. During this process, Microban® antimicrobial technology would be incorporated into the liquid solution and the melted pellets would then be rolled out to make a thin film of polypropylene material.

This material is then cut, layered, and pressed to make the well-known, durable, waterproof plastic that makes up each bag for life. After sewing the sides together and adding some handles, the bag is ready to use - over and over again!

By incorporating antimicrobial product protection into the manufacturing process, Microban® technology protects against the growth of harmful, stain and odor-causing bacteria that might deter you from recycling your reusable bag. The durable antimicrobial shield adds value to each bag and should give your customers added peace of mind when shopping at their favorite stores.

What’s more, Microban® antimicrobial technologies are approved by the FDA and EFSA for use in indirect food contact articles, meaning reusable bags with Microban® protection are safe to use with any perishable foods or produce.

A Broken Bag for Life Doesn't Have to End up in the Garbage

Never let your unwanted shopping bags become litter. Here are a few ideas for re-purposing your bag for life:

  1. Protect your side view mirrors
    During freezing weather, tie plastic bags around your side view mirrors to prevent them from frosting over. It will save you time in the morning because you don’t have to scrape them!
  2. Cheap packing material
    Substitute plastic bags as parcel padding for breakable or valuable items. You don’t have to purchase Styrofoam and it works just as well! Just make sure to pack it in securely.
  3. Painting tool preservation
    Place wet paint brushes inside plastic bags and tie them shut to keep them from drying out while you’re taking a break. You can also use plastic bags to seal paint cans by putting a plastic bag over the paint can opening before you put the lid on. This prevents old, dried paint from the lid from falling back into the can!
  4. Keep your shoes in pristine condition
    Walking through a muddy area? Is it snowing and you don’t have snowshoes? Tying plastic bags over your shoes can keep them clean and dry during adverse weather conditions. After washing your shoes, you can also ball plastic bags up and stuff them into your shoes while they are air-drying to help them keep their shape!
  5. Plant protection
    You can tie a plastic bag around your plant overnight to protect it from the frost. Just remember to remove it the next morning! You can also use plastic bags as additional padding for your knees when gardening by tying them around your knees. They also keep you clean! You can also use reusable shopping bags as planters for growing garden vegetables
  6. Creative crafts
    There are many creative crafts you can make from plastic bags! Here are just a few: Woven basket, Rug, Jump Rope. Flowerpot and Crochet plastic yarn.

It’s Time to Bag Yourself a New Product Feature!

If you’re a manufacturer of reusable shopping bags and would like to find out how your products could benefit from built-in antimicrobial technology, contact a member of the team today.