Know your bag: A comparative study

Criteria Thin Plastic Bags Thick Plastic Bags Newspaper Bags Non-Woven Bags Cloth Bags
Material LDPE Plastic #4 (Under 50 microns) HDPE Plastic #2 Newsprint (a low-grade, machine-finished paper made from wood pulp ) Made from spun, bonded, non-woven polypropylene. (A flexible resin polymer used to make rope, chairs and the tops of Tic-Tac boxes) Cotton, canvas, Jute etc
Convenience Very High. Water proof, strong enough for a one time use. Ideal to carry/store messy items. Easily available. Very High. Durable, water proof and air proof. Not convenient. Only for light goods. Tear when wet. Sturdy and durable. Can be wiped clean.Soft and permeable by air. Strong and durable. Can be washed.
Cost 20-30 paise per bag. Free for consumers 60p – Rs.5  Rs 2 – 5 per bag  Rs 10 per bag Min Rs 40 per bag
Habit High High Very low. Slowly gaining popularity. Attractive, look like cloth bags. Used to be popular before the advent of plastic bags. Still widely used in smaller towns.
Biodegradable No, they are photo-degradable. No (except come variants) Yes No Yes
Energy Use Very Low Low on energy use as compared to paper and cloth. But thicker and heavier the bag, more the resources used. Very high. Heavy burden on forests and water bodies. Higher than plastic bags Very high. Made from a high water consumption crop. Involves intensive use of pesticides and insecticides.
Time taken for Decomposition 10-20 years 500 to 1000 years Few weeks to a couple of months Undetermined 1-5 years depending on quality and thickness
Reusable Yes. Can be reused 4-5 times Yes. Several times. Not very durable for reuse. Yes, very durable. Highly reusable. Only downside is that there are hygiene issues due to moisture retention.
Recyclable No recycle value for rag-pickers. Can be made into plarn (plastic yarn) and woven Yes. Yes. High resale value. Also recycled by paper mills. Yes Yes
Environmental Impact Choke drains, plants, animals. Litter roads and water bodies. Consume a non-renewable resource. Manufacture uses oil, causes air, water pollution. Form a large non degradable component of solid waste. Choke drains and animals Earth-friendly as a waste material. But production takes a heavy toll on forests. Not determined yet. Same hazards as plastic. but do not choke drains as they are permeable. Earth-friendly as a waste material. But production is energy and water intensive.