There is some concern that the use of biodegradable additives to normally non-degradable plastic bags is sending the wrong message to the general public. One view is that since these plastics which are widely used in food and retail packaging are highly recyclable that recycling is where the main emphasis should be. Degradable additives are viewed by some to encourage rather than discourage society’s throw-away mentality.
Plastic bags, bottles and other containers are easy to recycle and have little environmental impact if they are properly recycled. We have said that the advantages of recyclable plastic bags far outweigh the disadvantages if they are indeed recycled. However, in the event that plastic packaging lands in the streets, woods, or streams, should it be allowed to degrade (like its paper counterparts)?
Do the additives cause problems when recycled?
I asked a trusted friend who has a plastic recycling operation. He says that the percentage of degradable additives in plastics is so small is does not adversly affect recycled plastic resin. Being in the business of selling biodegradable plastic, I had to ask, “What if all plastics were made with the additives?” He said in fact that almost all of his bags (and he makes bags for us, too) have oxo-degradable additives, and even so the bags recycle very well and the resins are reusable. The degradation process happens over time and only in conditions found outdoors and in landfills – not in a recycling bin or during the normal recycling process.
Would degradable additives be a good idea?
Recently I received an ad from a Chinese producer of woven PET and non-woven PP (fabric like) tote and grocery bags. The bags were advertised as “biodegradable.” Keeping in mind that out-of-country producers can say whatever they wish to about their proudcts, and the onus of finding out the facts falls on the buyer, I asked my friend about this.
I told him that I spent the weekend tearing up and refurbishing my mom’s garden. As early as 20 years ago, my dad put down the equivalent of non-woven PP (polypropylene) as a weed barrier. Over the years it got driven down into the soil. When I dug it up, other than being ripped to shreds from my bulldozer, it was not chemically broken down whatsoever. And by the way, I had to untangle all of it from the treads and bucket teeth each time I dug a batch up. I foresee the same thing happening with those grocery tote bags, but if they were “degradable” would it make a difference?
Just my opinion: My concern for the woven PET or non-woven PP bags is that they are practically indestructible. However, if an additive would make them degradable, would that be a good thing?
My friend’s answer got me back to ground zero again: He said the real solution is recycling and changing our society’s toss-away culture. “Those fabric-looking grocery bags lack serious infrastructure to be recycled,” he said. Maybe for the same reasons as what I found in the garden that they would wrap themselves around sorting equipment too? One thing is for sure: we do have an infrastructure to recycle and reuse polyethylene (PE) which are what most retail bags are made from today. T-Sacks and the like because almost all plastic bags, whatever their form, are recyclable… well except for the “reusable” non-woven ones.
One last thing I believe we need to clarify… The fabric-style bags you see at the grocery, the mall and many other places are either made from PP (polypropylene) or PET (polyethylene terephthalate). The point is they are plastics. Somehow many people are missing that.
What is your opinion? What do you feel is the best solution for retail bags?
Nashville Wraps carries recycled plastic bags with degradable additives, non-woven totes, PET bags made from recycled drink bottles, paper shopping bags and many other options. It is our intent to do the responsible thing, but also to offer our customer choices. We sell more paper bags than anything else by far, but the plastic bags made in the US from recycled materials are catching up. We are very proud that we can elevate the lowly plastic because it has receive so much undue criticism.
Love it or hate it… Meet the sustainable plastic bag.
Dan Blake says
Hi I have been importing Cotton Bags in to the UK for just over 1 year now, and we are set to tripple our sales in year 2. I’m researching the possibilty of providing cheeper alternatives for my customers. Every where I look I see these non woven PP bags, being called re-usable and recyclable by larger UK organisations, but myself I’m not convinced, Its seem like some form of PLASTIC and I’m not in the business of damaging our planet any further.
There doesnt seem to be a more sustainable eco-friendly biodegradable product than Cotton. We are researching the use of Bamboo mixed with Cotton, but fear the cost will be too great.
Please feel free to Email me of contact me through our website http://www.bags4keeps.co.uk , if you have any thoughts to a cheep sustainable biodegradable product we can look into so we can work together to get rid of these not so eco-friendly products on the market today.
Thanks for this information–I have been looking for an explanation of what the tote bags offered at grocery stores and retail stores these days is made of. I had a suspicion that they were just as harmful to the environment as any other bag except for the fact that they can be reused. Unfortunately, we will just be making the problem worse if those bags continue to be manufactured and sold to unsuspecting consumers who believe they are doing their part for the environment by purchasing those bags. Hopefully solutions like the ones your products offer can become more mainstream.
I flush my dog’s poop down the toilet with a flushable doggy waste bag. Most eco-friendly way to get ride of dog poop.
The company is called Flush Doggy.
There are flushable dog poop bags. The best answer probably because dog poop can get treated just as your poop is.
FlushDoggy, is a fully biodegradable, flushable(water soluble) dog waste bag that is very eco-friendly.
Dog doodies are best to be flushed down the toilet and degrade naturally , just as our own doodies. Stop destroying our earth and start educating the public, one poop at a time. Be a responsible owner and go green for our pets.
Robby Meadows says
The main problem with compostable bags is that they are not recyclable; additionally they are incompatable with other PE bags that are. Also just from a personal perspective the PLA bags are really rubbery feeling to me. Lastly the compostable bags will only “compost” in a controlled environment set up for composting. If a society set its infrastructure up to “compost” then it also has to set up infrastructure to “collect”; so why not use that infrastructure to recycle?
Jason Elliott says
Biodegradable plastic carrier bags are still going to remain in the environment for many years, they just break into smaller pieces.
Obviously, the best answer is to change to a less throw-away society and use re-useable bags but, in the meantime, the Co-operative Society in Britain are trialling completely compostable bags.
Of course there will be resistance to the idea of getting rid of carrier bags from corporations. After all, they are selling us the convenience idea but the real interest in keeping them in circulation is that they provide an incredibly cheap advertising platform.