Public calls for free biodegradable plastic bags

It’s no secret that the amount of plastic waste in the world is a massive issue. Plastic bags alone contribute a large portion of landfill waste and pollution, and with over one trillion of them distributed worldwide each year, it’s a crisis that needs to be managed fast. So much so that it is estimated that every square mile of the world’s ocean is polluted by almost 50’000 pieces of plastic, each taking 500 years to degrade.

Recently, growing environmental campaigns such as Break The Bag Habit are driving companies to take stock and think about their impact on the world around them in a bid to lessen their plastic waste. The UK government is also making steps to help by introducing a 5p charge for all plastic bags from October 1st, 2015. This follows similar campaigns implemented throughout Europe which has seen a significant reduction in the usage of plastic bags over the past few years.

However, a recent YouGov poll by Symphony Environmental Technologies which surveyed over 2000 people revealed that the majority of Brits would like to see bags which are made from either biodegradable or recycled material exempt from the charge.

Of the people polled, 85% agreed that retailers should only supply biodegradable or recycled bags, and a further 59% stated that they would prefer to shop with retailers who only offered these bags.

A massive 98% said that they are already in the practice of reusing their plastic bags, and in a significant move, 65% suggested that biodegradable and recyclable bags should be exempt from charge.

However, these results strengthen the argument for the use of the controversial oxo-biodegradable bag, which, when degrading, will release harmful greenhouse gases if they don’t have access to a sufficient oxygen supply which is needed for them to decompose safely. Therefore, if these bags are disposed of in a compact landfill site, the risk or air pollution increases hugely.

In 2010, students from Loughborough University found that the use of additives in plastic bags “does not improve their environmental impact and potentially gives rise to certain negative effects”. The students also raised concerns that the bags still took too long to decompose, were not able to be recycled, and that they could be harmful to the British wildlife.

As a result, a number of retailers, including big hitters such as Tesco and the Co-op terminated the use of oxo-biodegradable bags.

Michael Laurier, chief executive of Symphony however insists that oxo-biodegradable bags should be introduced in conjunction with the five pence charge, in order to further mitigate plastic bag use.

“Despite the five pence charge, a large number of carrier bags will be supplied, and many of them could get out into the open environment where they could lie or float around for decades.”

If you would like to talk to TH Plastics about your plastic recycling options, please get in touch via our contact page or by calling us on 01457 855514.