It really makes CM laugh. While we can feel all cozy about saving the planet by cutting plastic bag use, had anyone thought of the word “substitution”? That people often “reused” their free plastic shopping bags to dispose of rubbish by their desks or the bedroom. Now they need to go to aisle 9 to buy more “single use” plastic garbage bags to dispose of household waste…so reality is consumption of plastic bags has probably fallen by near as makes no difference zero.
In 2006 the UK Environment Agency did astudyon the effectiveness of alternative packaging solutions to HDPE (conventional plastic bags) in terms of lowering environmental impact. It said,
“The paper, LDPE, non-woven PP and cotton bags should be reused at least 3, 4, 11 and 131 times respectively to ensure that they have lower [impact] than conventional HDPE carrier bags that are not reused.”
So if conventional biodegradable plastic shopping bags are used to throw out garbage that means 6, 8, 22 and 262 days.
While we’re at it, do people realize that the majority of take away wax-lined coffee cups aren’t recycled even though you can feel good about yourself when disposing of it in the right bin? How many people elect to have their brew poured into a ceramic cup? Look next time – hardly any! The cost to recycle the 500 billion (and rising) coffee cups consumed annually is so astronomical (it is hard to separate the wax that stops the cup disintegrating because of the energy intensity involved to do so) that over 90% end up in landfill. No one talks about that 300 million tons of virgin paper used to make these cups! How many of us give it one thought when we need a shot of caffeine? Right?! Although Starbucks is trialing a 5p latte levy for those that elect to use a paper cup.
All this ban has done has inconvenience people. 60% of mismanaged plastic waste was from East Asia (i.e. China), 11% from South Asia; 9% from sub-Saharan Africa; 8% from MENA; 7% from LatAm; 3% from Europe and 0.9% from North America. Australia doesn’t even get a mention. Our impact is zero. So why the obsession to self flagellate?