Lightweight, practical, reusable, stylish and quite often free, we all love a tote! The dilemma happens when your totes pile up; perhaps your totes have ended up in a bottomless bag of bags, or they just aren't getting the use they should.
The important thing is that you should never put these totes straight in the general waste bin. Dependent on the type of materials and processes used, you should be able to recycle or repurpose your tote instead.
Take to a Recycling Centre or Textile Bank
Take your old totes to a recycling centre or textile banks - just make sure it accepts the materials yours is made from.
The one hurdle is that lots of totes are covered in PVC-based logos and dyes that cannot be recycled. In fact, a report by the New York Times suggested that an estimated 10 to 15% of materials received cannot be recycled. And although a 15% waste is better than 100%, it is best to purchase totes that are made from recycled materials and water-based inks (100% biodegradable pigment into a water base) to begin with.
Reuse the Reusable
One study found that you’d have to reuse a cotton tote 327 times to achieve the same carbon-usage ratio as using a paper bag seven times, or a plastic bag used twice. The take from this should be that reusable totes are still better for the environment than plastic, but you should use them for years on end. The exception to this is biodegradable totes made from recycled materials, which help combat plastic waste (canvas totes made from a blend of recycled and organic cotton can reduce water use by up to 70-80%, for example). However, these are still designed for a lifetime of use - so make every effort to use them.
Don't Forget Your Tote!
We've all been there: you get to the end of a large food shop, and you realise that you've left your bags behind (and end up having to get a plastic one). Do whatever it takes to remember to bring your reusable totes to the shop: leave them in your car, hanging on the front door or tie them to your purse - whatever works for you.
Remember that totes can be used for your food shop, but they also make a great companion for almost all occasions (gym, picnic, trip to the post office, school and so on) and can hold a lot more items than you might think.
Keep Them Clean
You can't use the excuse that your tote is too dirty to take out of the house as totes can be washed, hooray! Put in the machine on a 40° wash with similar colours, making sure you've removed all of your items and cleared out all interior and exterior dust and debris beforehand.
Repurpose or Donate
If you treat your reusable tote as disposable, that defeats the point of the tote altogether. If you don't want to reuse or recycle, you should repurpose or donate your totes instead. You could:
- Take your totes to shelters, food banks or other charitable organisations that accept accessories and textiles.
- If you donate to soup kitchens and food banks, bundle up your donations in reusable totes instead of disposable plastic so the bags can be passed along to the people who use the service.
Use them in lieu of gift bags.
Think Out Of The Box
And you can get real creative when repurposing your tote!
- Repurpose them as planters.
- Make them into a pillowcase.
- Turn into a child's apron.
- Use them for home storage.
...and so on and so forth. Turn to the internet and YouTube for ideas.
We are Tom's Totes. Our mission is to make plastic bags completely out of fashion, and to make sustainable lifestyle choices stylish. Support independent artists and join our mission to ditch plastic with our collection of biodegradable tote bags, prints and paint kits online. For more top tote tips, check out our blog and news page