Yes we can! Eco bit 5: Plastic bags are troublesome

Plastic bags that we use only once to bring home our shopping:  Should we ban them?


Plastic bags take 1,000 years to degrade, so if they aren’t disposed of properly, they make for a lot of litter that hangs around for a very very long time. 

As litter, plastic bags can be lethal to animals that swallow them or get tangled up in them.  Some estimates are that as many as a hundred thousand marine mammals like dolphins, seals, and whales are killed every year by plastic.  A million seabirds might be killed every year.

Another reason for getting rid of plastic bags is – to my surprise – convenience.  In our house we have switched to reusable biodegradable bags each of which hold about three times as much as an ordinary plastic shopping bag.  It’s much faster to lug the groceries out of the car into the house, and we have less trash.  We keep the bags on a hook in the garage and toss them into the car when we go to the supermarket.

A return to paper bags, of course, would be just as bad for the environment as plastic ones, so that’s no solution.  Just a different kind of problem.


About Terry Sissons

Terry Sissons is the author of The Big Bang to Now: All of Time in Six Chunks, and this blog is a dialogue about the universe and what’s happened in the last 13 billions years.
This entry was posted in saving our home - thoughts about global warming. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Yes we can! Eco bit 5: Plastic bags are troublesome

  1. Recycled bags are OK, but they are not degradable and will still lie around in the environment for hundreds of years. However, ordinary plastic and recycled plastic can be made oxo-biodegradable.

    This is done by includingd2w additive which makes it degrade, then biodegrade, on land or at sea, in the light or the dark, in heat or cold, in whatever timescale is required, leaving NO fragments NO methane and NO harmful residues. Oxo-bio meets American Standard 6954, and is made from a by-product of oil refining which used to be wasted, so nobody is importing oil to make it.

    There is little or no extra cost.

    Plastics made from crops, are at least 400% more expensive, they are not strong enough, and they emit methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) in landfill. Also, it is wrong to use land, water and fertilisers to grow crops for bioplastics and biofuels, which drives up the cost of food for the poorest people.

    The same applies to growing cotton or jute to make durable bags. These rapidly become unhygienic and become a durable form of litter, but they can be made from oxo-bio plastic to last up to 5 years.

    Paper bags use 300% more energy to produce, they are bulky and heavy and are not strong enough. They will also emit methane in landfill

    Michael Stephen
    Symphony Environmental, UK

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