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The choice of cloth tote bag versus plastic disposable bag is debated by some.  It depends what you consider when judging them.  The resources needed to produce and transport a plastic disposable bag are less than for a cotton cloth tote bag, so you have to use a cotton cloth tote bag a long time to break even on the resource usage.  Tote bags can be made from other materials besides cotton cloth; long lasting tote bags are also made from a light weight woven synthetic material which minimizes resource usage.  

Plastic disposable bags that you're given to bring home groceries can be reused for your small garbage cans in place of purchased plastic disposable bags.  The big problem is that many plastic bags find their way outside, snagged in trees and floating on creeks, then rivers, all the way to the ocean. Besides being unpleasant to look at, they are mistaken for food and kill wildlife.  And nobody wants that.