plastic bags

The truth about ‘bio-degradable’ plastic bags

Our new and improved environmental saviour of the turtles and whales, the bio-degradable plastic bag apparently is not. Nor does the compostable bag compost that well. Oh dear!

Greenpeace got the west all stirred up over “single-use” plastic bags and had them banned. So the enlightened switched to bio-degradable and compostable bags to save the planet.

Unfortunately, according to a study from University of Plymouth published in Environmental Science and Technology, all is not as promised. The abstract of the paper reads: quote.

There is clear evidence that discarded single-use carrier bags are accumulating in the environment.

As a result, various plastic formulations have been developed which state they deteriorate faster and/or have fewer impacts on the environment because their persistence is shorter.

This study examined biodegradable, oxo-biodegradable, compostable, and high-density polyethylene (i.e., a conventional plastic carrier bag) materials over a 3 year period.

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Reality check: The BBC does some checking!

Well, well well! The BBC has a ‘reality check’ column. It has done some reality checking and found that what Christie and others here at Whaleoil have been saying for some time is actually true.

There was never any doubt about the accuracy of Christie’s work but it is jolly nice of the BBC to finally catch up with reality. Quote.

[…] Paper bags remain popular in the US, but they fell out of use in UK supermarkets in the 1970s as plastic was seen as a more durable material.

But are paper bags more environmentally friendly than plastic ones?

The answer comes down to:

  • how much energy is used to make the bag during manufacturing?
  • how durable is the bag? (ie how many times can it be reused?)
  • how easy is it to recycle?
  • how quickly does it decompose if thrown away?

In 2011 a research paper produced by the Northern Ireland Assembly said it “takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag.”

Unlike plastic bags (which the report says are produced from the waste products of oil refining) paper requires forests to be cut down to produce the bags. The manufacturing process, according to the research, also produces a higher concentration of toxic chemicals compared with making single-use plastic bags.

Paper bags also weigh more than plastic; this means transportation requires more energy, adding to their carbon footprint, the study adds. […]

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Get ready to pay, comrades: No plastic bags for you!

Stuff and nonsense reports on the latest government brainfart. $100K fines for plastic bags. quote.

Quote:[?]The Government announced in August plans to phase out single-use plastic shopping bags, later opting for a ban after feedback that included 9000 submissions.End of quote.

Is that all it takes to get something banned? Yet if you want something unbanned you have to hold a nation wide referendum.

Quote:Ministry for the Environment documents confirm rule-breakers could be fined up to $100,000, depending on the seriousness of the offence.

A spokeswoman said they were “working to get the word out” in time and would work with retailers first. Court action would be a last resort, she said.End of quote.

Translation: Do as we say or else.

It is of interest to note that the fine for reckless use of a firearm is a maximum of $3000. So we have a government that thinks that reckless selling of plastic bags is significantly worse than the reckless use of a firearm! quote.

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2 million Countdown bags in the rivers each year

Yes, that is the frightening statistic from Countdown’s Craig Taylor.

“42,000 plastic bags going into waterways every week” equals 2,184,000 Countdown plastic bags going into waterways every year.? How many have you seen floating by?

The article is not clear whether “all stores” means all 10 in the Bay of Plenty or all Countdown stores in New Zealand so I checked with the Countdown website.? It seems that the 2 million per year is only in the Bay of Plenty.??”Countdown […] will remove around 350 million plastic bags from circulation each year!”

It is, indeed, depressing that people in the beautiful Bay of Plenty take their 42,000, so-called, single-use plastic bags from the Countdown checkout and dispose of them in the nearest creek or river.

But it is so heartwarming to note that Countdown is replacing the,?so-called, single-use plastic bags with “eco-bags”.? You see, adding “eco” to anything makes it good, acceptable and environmentally friendly.? Eco-bags cannot migrate to waterways – Eugenie will be so pleased. Read more »

Plastic ban causes confusion

A ?ragpicker? on Mumbai?s shoreline, which is littered with plastic waste. AP PHOTO/RAFIQ MAQBOOL

More from India on plastic bags and plastic bans.? Yale Environment reports. Quote.

In June, one of the world?s strictest plastic bans came into effect in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai ? population 18.4 million ? is the capital. Plastic bags had been banned here before, to little effect. This time, however, thanks to a strong push from a prominent young local politician, the restrictions are far more sweeping. They included bans on the manufacture, sale, and use of throwaway plastic items such as bags, plates, cutlery, straws, and small bottles, as well as new regulations governing retail packaging and Styrofoam. And penalties for manufacturing and selling these items were now higher than ever, including fines of up to $350 and jail terms of up to three months.

The first week of the ban was marked by drama and confusion. More than 300 plastic bag manufacturers reportedly had to close, throwing thousands of people out of work. Restaurants began using aluminum takeout containers. Residents weren?t sure if they could even use plastic bags for their garbage.

Then came the backlash. Within a week ? after pleas from plastic manufacturers, milk suppliers, small traders, consumer giants like Pepsi and Coca-Cola, and e-commerce companies like Amazon ? the government relaxed the rules, exempting small traders and granting more time for bigger players to come up with solutions for retail packaging, including alternative materials and recycling schemes. For now, only plastic bags, takeout containers, plates, and Styrofoam remain forbidden.

In Mumbai?s bustling old Matunga market on a recent weekend, where open-air stalls offered a variety of vegetables and fruits and shops sold everything from mops to milk, plastic shopping bags were conspicuously missing. Customers were armed with canvas and cloth bags; vendors handed out paper ones, if asked. ?It?s like going backwards in time,? said one shopper.

Mumbai?s ban is part of a growing global trend restricting the use of plastics, especially plastic bags and other single-use items. But the city?s dramatic intervention seems more like a lesson in how not to implement a plastic ban. Restrictions were announced just three months before they were to take effect, there was little publicity before the June 23 deadline, and alternatives were not promoted. The failure to enforce previous bans also made people cynical. Big business didn?t even turn up for early meetings of the government committee handling the issue.End of quote.

At least our Captain gave us 4 months notice, not three! Quote.

?It was a jolt for everyone,? says Sameer Joshi, secretary of the Indian Plastics Institute, an industry body.

As the lobbying, backtracking, and confusion that have beset Mumbai in the past two months shows, it?s not easy to restrict a material that has become so deeply embedded in the modern economy. ?Transitioning to more environmentally suitable alternatives will be a lengthy process,? said Keith Weller, a spokesperson for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which launched a campaign on plastic pollution last year.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, experts say some factors are key to reducing single-use plastic. These include advance consultation with industries, sufficient time to build public support, strong enforcement, and the use of incentives such as the buy-back of banned plastic items. The success stories, in places ranging from Ireland to China, also suggest that charging people for using plastic bags works better than outright bans. Education is also important, as is improving waste management, especially in developing economies like India.

Experts say that targeting consumers and retailers for single-use items like bags, cups, and straws is a good place to start, since they are the most visible and ubiquitous plastic waste. But availability of affordable alternatives remains a challenge. ?There is a need for innovation and entrepreneurship,? says Weller, adding that alternative materials ? including biodegradable items and biopolymers such as cellulose ? need to be seen ?as part of a broader strategy toward more sustainable production.? […]End of quote.

But not in New Zealand, even biodegradable bags have been banned. Quote.

The quickening pace of action to reduce plastic use reflects growing concern about the impact of plastic waste on the environment, especially marine life. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans every year, much of it from Asia, especially China, with its growing economies and poor waste disposal systems. Plastic debris is now found on the farthest shores of the earth?s oceans, including in the high Arctic and Antarctica, and at great ocean depths. The discovery of small plastic particles, or microplastics, in the food chain, including in drinking water, have added to the rising concern.

More than 60 countries now have some kind of ban or tax on plastic bags, according to UNEP?s recent report. Data on the effectiveness of these rules is available for only half these countries, of which 30 percent have seen a dramatic decline in use, the report said. These include Denmark, Ireland, China, and the Netherlands. The other 20 percent of countries have seen no change. In May, the European Union proposed a ban on 10 single-use items, including bags, straws, and cotton swabs. Britain also has called for a ban on plastic straws, and other countries may follow suit; in the United States alone, 500 plastic million straws are used daily.End of quote.

Or maybe some other number. It depends on which 9-year old’s science project you consult. Quote.

Among the earliest and most successful countries at slashing plastic bag use was Denmark, which in 1993 became the first country to tax plastic bags, levying charges first on bag makers, and then in 2003, on retailers. Today, the average Dane uses four single-use bags in a year, compared to an American or Pole who uses a bag a day. In 2002, Ireland introduced a fee on plastic bags at supermarkets, leading to a 90 percent reduction in use. And in 2008, China reported a 70 percent fall in plastic bag use after it banned bags of less than 25-micron thickness and levied fees on thicker ones.

For Europe, the results are already showing: one study found a 30 percent drop in plastic bags on the seafloor around the U.K. and parts of northern Europe after 2010, which researchers attributed to the spread of bag charge policies.

Less successful has been a 2002 ban in Bangladesh, which forbade thin plastic bags after recurring floods were found to have been aggravated by plastic waste choking storm drains. Poor enforcement of the ban, as well as a lack of cheap alternatives, led to failure.

Recycling, on the other hand, is lacking everywhere. Globally, just 9 percent of plastic waste gets recycled, with some European countries coming close to 30 percent. Recycling capacities are low in advanced economies, such as Britain and the U.S., partly because they export their plastic waste, previously to China and now to Southeast Asia.

India has relatively high rates of recycling, thanks to an informal network of impoverished ?ragpickers.? But they do not collect plastic straws, thin plastic bags, other small items because it?s not worth their time to accumulate the enormous volumes needed to make up one kilogram of low-quality plastic, which fetches just over a dollar. It?s this lightweight, disposable plastic that pollutes India?s waterways, wetlands, and roads. […]

A little shock therapy can be helpful, as well. Back in Mumbai?s Matunga market, some vendors roll their eyes at the government?s effort. They?re skeptical that enforcement will last, especially once election campaign season begins later in the year. For now, they?re wrapping vegetables in newspaper and packing grains in thick plastic printed with the buyback price. And shoppers are changing their habits.

One of them, housewife Manisha Shah, said she now keeps canvas shopping bags in her car at all times. She was clutching two of these bags when I met her. ?You think you?re done, then you see something else you want to buy,? she said, ?But you can?t if your bag is full.? End of quote.


The unforeseen frustrations of the plastic bag ban

Life without plastic bags has started for many of us but this article?shows that it isn’t always easy and that some of the issues can be really annoying, as well as being unhygienic. quote:

I should know how to handle a self serve checkout. I’ve been swiping tins of tuna and weighing tomatoes for a decade now.

Prior to the bag ban, more often that not, I used the single use plastic bags provided. Which I would reuse. For something. At some point. Scout’s honour.

Now, dutifully, I bring my own bags. Usually a rag tag collection of worse-for-wear carrier bags and so-called green bags.

And here is where it’s all falling down.

You see, in these bags I bring from home, I might throw in a book for the bus ride; there might be a pen, or four, at the bottom. On the way to the supermarket I might pick up some greens from the grocer. Maybe some lunch.

After I’ve been around the aisles, I put my basket on one side of the self-serve and bags on the other. I go to swipe the first item. And all hell breaks loose. Chants and lights assault me. I am electronically berated for having an “unexpected item in the bagging area”. end quote.

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Ban the bags

Seldom do I agree with any policies put forward and championed by the Green party, but in regards to the phasing out of single-use plastic bags, I make an exception.

I am in favour of this policy for the following reasons:

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Auckland Council focusing on things that matter

Via the tipline:

Really? If it wasn’t silly enough that Green Taliban MP has a Bill to protect Bigfoot,? we now see Auckland Council greenies wanting to get rid of so called ?single use? plastic bags.


Sandra Murry from Auckland Council must really have a lot of time on her hands if she?s banging on about ?Single Use Plastic Bags?. ? Read more »

Plastic Bags and Sanctimony of The Greens

Holly Walker is a right regular drama Queen as an MP. ?Excited to be everywhere.

Her cat however appears less than impressed with the practising of Green virtues in the house and a little confused by Holly’s mixed messages.