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As I ask myself the question and start thinking about it, I realise it might be obvious that it is worth it. But I thought I'd ask anyway as someone might have a nice analysis to share.

The other day, I cleaned a lightweight plastic bag (I don't usually do it, I put them in the bin when they are filthy) and thought it was a lot of water for a small single-use bag. It got me thinking: is the amount of water I used to clean that bag (I'd say about one litre) more than the water used for its manufacture and transport? Looking at both a recycled bag and one made from fossil raw materials would be great.

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    What about saving them for when you wash other stuff — then you use less water, and may have some washing up liquid in there too. – PJTraill Nov 1 '17 at 22:54
  • That's a very good point actually. Show that I never really considered them to be just another kind of container. – stragu Nov 3 '17 at 2:29
  • To wash more efficiently, turn inside out. Dry it inside out too. – RedSonja Nov 8 '17 at 12:05
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Typical costs of water is 50 cents per 1000 gallons.

Typical low flow kitchen tap is 2 gpm. 20 seconds of spray -- under 1 gallon. Fraction of a cent.

More to the point is the value of your time. My usual problem is drying them.

Our rule here:

Breadbags come in, they get the crumbs shaken out and stored.

2nd use is usually breaking up bulk food bought from Costco. If it's a dry food, it goes into the stored bin again. If it's used for something wet, (meat, fish) it's discarded.

Ziplock get reused more agressively, but still are discarded after meat/fish use.

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    Apart from Sherwoods answer I think it's also worth looking at energy/material spent in making the water available, and in producing another bag. Both should be available, I guess. I don't have the time for an answer. – Jan Doggen Oct 25 '17 at 15:34
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    For things like water and plastic bags, the energy used in production typically makes up the largest portion of the cost (compared to raw materials) -- so the cost serves as a fair proxy when comparing the energy (and thus, emissions) used in production. – LShaver Oct 26 '17 at 16:23
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    Thanks for your answer, Sherwood. But how does it compare to the water used during the production (extraction, manufacture, transport) of a plastic bag? – stragu Nov 3 '17 at 3:16

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