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Cambodian Market Bags

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Jan 01, 2008
Category: Home

“Paper or plastic?”

There will come a time when that question is as archaic as “Shall we take the flivver or the carriage?”

And for a simple reason: Plastic is killing us.

The plastic bag, as you may know, is the single most ubiquitous consumer item on Earth, numbering in the trillions. Some stats:

— Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags a year. That’s like wasting 12 million barrels of oil.
— Only 2% of plastic bags are recycled in the United States.
— Fifty per cent of all marine litter is plastic.

And it’s not like putting plastic bags in landfills solves the problem. For one thing, they take as long as 1,000 years to degrade. For another, they blow away — and then those thousand years start in trees and fields and bodies of water.

The answer isn’t to get your groceries or small packages in paper bags. It’s to use an indestructible bag. And as long as you’re going that route, why not a bag that is both beautiful and socially responsible?

Cambodian market bags start life in Vietnam, where they’re used to transport rice. When discarded, they’re brought to Cambodia, where they’re cleaned and sewn into market bags, with reinforced stitching at the edges.

They hold a lot — we’re talking 18" wide x 12" high x 6" deep, with 21" handles.

They’re minor works of art — because they’re not from a single producer in Vietnam and are individually sewn in Cambodia, they’re genuinely one-of-a-kind.

They do good — 35 percent of Cambodia’s people live in poverty, and almost half of its national budget comes from international aid. These bags mean jobs and job skills and a step up the ladder to literacy and self-sufficiency.

They’re cheap — for $29, you get a bag that ages and fades like madras but lasts forever. 

They’re chic — someday bags like these will be the norm and we’ll see them as symbols of an all-connected, globally-conscious economy. For now, they’re not just practical, not just environmentally helpful, they’re fashion. And who doesn’t respond to fashion?