Recently in Australia some major supermarkets have begun phasing out disposable shopping bags.

A lot of people are saying things like that the new reusable bags are worse than the disposable bags.

There's also a lot of debate about whether the new reusable bags are better or worse than the old disposable ones. A cursory Google search has turned up results from hundreds to thousands of years for one of the reusable bags to biodegrade, and people say that the reusable bags must be used about 40 times before the environmental impact is equal.

Does anyone know how long it takes for a typical disposable plastic bag to break down is, and how that compares to reusable polypropylene bags?

  • 1
    I had a bio degradable plastic bag begin to falll apart inside a warm dry cupboard in less than 2 years. – Richard Aug 8 '18 at 0:12
  • Outdoors in the summer sun in Arizona, about 3 and a half minutes. Just kidding, it will start to fall apart in about a month. – Tim Nevins Aug 8 '18 at 21:18
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    It depends on what "break down" means here. A plastic bag thrown into the ocean will tear into microscopic particles within a few weeks, but the particles themselves would take decades to decompose (see the Pacific trash ring for an example) – JonathanReez Aug 15 '18 at 4:52

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