Much has been made over recent years as to the use of
more environmentally-friendly packaging, particularly the every-day
shopping bags most of us use without a second thought. The current trend
in many high-street stores and supermarkets is the use of biodegradable
single-use carrier bags. The plastics used in the manufacture of these
bags contain a degrading agent, a technology known as d2W which is
designed to break the plastic material down to leave only water, carbon
dioxide and biomass.
The theory behind these biodegradable bags, is sound enough: when the bag is exposed to sunlight, water and the elements, the aerobic environment causes the enzymatic action of the microbes to start the deterioration process. However, the way the majority of these bags are disposed of, i.e. amenity tips and landfills (amongst our normal household waste), means that most of the bags do not get exposed to the elements and therefore do not degrade.
Contrary to claims by manufacturers that these bags can be composted, studies by the Australian Government found that the residues and additives could expose plants and living organisms to potentially toxic compounds.
Disposable plastic bags have either been totally banned or restricted in at least 40 countries around the world, including Denmark, France, Switzerland, Hong Kong, South Africa, Taiwan, even Scotland and Ireland – but not England.
So what is the answer?
Unfortunately there is no totally green solution currently available. Even paper bags and starch-based bags have a considerable impact on the environment during the manufacturing process, i.e. the intensive agriculture required to produce sufficient crops, plus the water, chemicals and energy required to grow them.
The real answer lies firstly in our own education and disciplines. How many bags do we use just once and throw away again? In Britain was dispose of around 14 billion single-use plastic bags every year. The way forward has to be through the use (and continued re-use) of reusable bags. Better still if these reusable bags are made of cotton, jute, or hemp.
Anglo Packaging, UK specialists in printed carrier bags, provides a wide range of branded carrier bags in a variety of materials, many of which are suitable for reuse. So even if you use a carrier bag made from nylon or plastic, provided that you reuse it as often as possible, you will still be doing your bit for the environment.
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