Friday, April 9, 2010

Plastic Bags

I am sick of the greenwash that supermarkets are using with respect to their plastic bags. The uninformed person is probably starting to feel ok about their acceptance of plastic bags at the end of the supermarket check out queue because of the words emblazioned on their bag "degradable' plastic bag". To me this is such a slap in the face. Of course it is degradable, everything is degradable, some products just take millions of years!

I was interested to know exactly how long it would take one of these 'degradable plastic bags' to degrade. So after a little bit of internet research it seems that it doesn't take as long as I originally suspected, but the length of time and the likely end point (being the local landfill) still leave the opportunity for environmental damage and degradation to occur as a result of these bags.

One plastic bag manufacturer did overseas research to determine the length of time it would take one of these bags to degrade and in the right conditions and exposure to sunlight it would be about a year. They then extrapolated their research and determined that it would probably be 3-4 months with full exposure to Queensland sun for a plastic bag to degrade.

I think what is regarded as 'degraded' as they discuss on the plastic bags is that the end product is not going to significantly impact upon the environment and in the context of this product, its context within landfill and the possible exposure of animals to a product that could cause them harm.

Well, this to me is certainly interesting and an eye opener. I suspected that it would take at least 10 years for a product such as a plastic bag to become environmentally benign. Nevertheless, I will continue to try to avoid the acceptance of plastic bags in the shopping queue. My issue is (after this research) I don't currently have a replacement for the humble plastic bag to store my rubbish prior to its collation into my wheelie bin each week. This obviously means that I am still contributing to the plastic bag issue. Guess I now have to look into some of the more biodegradable products, maybe something like the cornstarch products are more appropriate. More research needed to reduce that footprint I guess. Pin It

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