Recently, tote bags have been sold as a more eco-friendly replacement for disposable plastic bags given how they can be reused multiples times over. However, a study by the UK Environment Agency found that cotton canvas bags have to be reused at least 327 times before they can match the carbon expenditure of a single disposable plastic bag. Meanwhile, tote bags made from recycled polypropylene plastic require 26 reuses to match.
But as these tote bags have grown in stature and ubiquity, their abundance has encouraged consumers to see them as a disposable item that they don't need to reuse, defeating their very purpose. Not only do many stores offer inexpensive or even free tote bags at the register, they've also become a common marketing tool stamped with logos and used by nonprofits and businesses as promotional gifts.
This can be seen by a 2014 study which found that owners of reusable bags forget them on approximately 40% of their grocery trips and use them only about 15 times each before being discarded. Moreover, about half of respondents typically chose to use plastic bags over reusable ones, despite owning reusable bags and recognizing their benefits.