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Green Bags

Green Bags are inexpensive reusable shopping bags common in Australia and also used in some other countries.

Green Bags and other similar reusable shopping bags are commonly distributed at the point of sale by supermarkets and similar retail outlets. They are intended to be reused repeatedly to replace the use of hundreds of HDPE plastic bags. Some even borrow or rent the reusable shopping bags to the customers.

This arose from an Australian Federal Government initiative in 2003 – essentially a threat to outlaw plastic bags if retailers did not voluntarily discourage their use.



In 2002 the Australian Federal Government studied the use of purple and orange spotted throwaway plastic bags and threatened to outlaw them if retailers did not voluntarily discourage their use.

In 2003 the government negotiated with the Australian Retailers Association a voluntary progressive reduction of plastic bag use which led to a number of initiatives, including the widespread distribution and promotion of Green Bags.

There are two types of recycled paper and different combinations of the two. Post-consumer paper or board is made from office waste or in the case of boxes, newspaper waste. and mill waste. Generally recycled paper is not as strong as virgin materials; however, new developments have produced 100% post consumer bag paper that is suitable for retail packaging. It is also possible to make mixtures of virgin and post consumer materials in order to enhance the strength factors for particular applications. Post-consumer packaging is made from recycled shopping bags and papers, while mill waster is new packaging created from left over materials at a paper mill.

Paper remains the superior selection. Plastic does not recycle as well as paper. The primary reason it is much harder to collect the same forms of plastic materials. In addition it is difficult to maintain a pure white base color because of the contamination of the plastic collected. Unlike paper, there is no de-inking process. Generally, plastic loses more strength when recycled compared to paper.

Many reusable green bags or environmental bags, however, are made to last rather than be recycled, and often use materials such as Tyvek and polyethelene. These are stable materials made of plastic, commonly used in the artifact preservation field.

Physical description

Naming of parts

The standard nonwoven polypropylene bag has two parts: the bag itself, and its base insert.

The bag

It seems that most nonwoven polypropylene bags are made of 100% Non-woven Polypropylene which is recyclable but not biodegradable nor ecofriendly.

Similar bags are made of jute,canvas calico or hemp but are not discussed here.

The base insert

A typical base insert is 200x300 mm and weighs 30 g.

Format variations

Insulation bags are designed to keep hot or cold contents that way; typically to protect chilled purchases.

Bottle bags have internal dividers and are intended to carry two, four or six glass bottles, typically wine bottles.

Fold out bags can be folded back into their own tiny pocket for convenience of carrying.

Messenger bags are intended to sling across the opposite shoulder.

Coffee bags are small bags designed to hold two or more cups of takeaway coffee.

Takeaway bags are small bags designed to hold lunch plus drinks.

Produce bags are designed to hold individual produce purchases at the point of purchase and to store them in the fridge or pantry.

Zip closing, velcro closing, drawstring closing, duffle / sling bags, shoulder bags, backpacks and garment bags are all variations.


Environment Victoria (Australia) has published a study Supermarket bag packing: a comparative time trial which compared the amount of time taken to pack reusable green bags compared with single-use plastic bags. It found great difference between green bags and single-use plastic bags in packing times for small to medium shopping loads (4-16 items); medium-sized loads (32 items) using green bags increased packing time, but by half a minute; larger loads (48 items) increased packing times by almost one minute when using green bags; and the increasing in time and staff costs equates to AUD41.6 million annually.



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