Biodegradable bag recyclable packaging, material background

There is so much confusion in industry and with consumers alike around the issues of plastics and which solutions provide real benefits to the environment. What are the different industry processes that make ‘greener’ products and are these processes in themselves doing more harm than good? A plastic bag that is bio-degradable sounds like it would be a positive thing for the planet – but in truth, is it? We take a look at some of the myths around eco-friendly products and find out what’s actually good for the environment.

Bio-degradable and what it leaves behind

The idea behind its origins is born out of great intentions. Who wouldn’t want to claim a waste or by product can be completely decomposed by bacteria or living organisms to avoid pollution? This may well be the false impression that some consumers are basing their buying choices on.  The truth is plastic can not bio-degrade in this way. It does break down, that is completely true – but what remains is devastating not only for the environment, but for our own heath too. When plastic breaks down like this, it leaves behind harmful micro-particles that find their way into water ways, the sea, the food we eat and the air we breathe. It is estimated that we eat 50,000 particles of micro-plastics a year and breathe in a similar quantity.* To put it into some kind of context – it is estimated we are consuming a credit card size amount of plastic every week. 75% of the plastic we have produced still exists. There has to a better way.

Is compostable the answer?

Compostable bag

Compostable bag

This is a product made from potato or corn starch and will breakdown entirely. The difference is that compostable bags and compostable plastic alternatives can be added to home composting and this will decompose as it is made from organic matter. In fact, it becomes a nutrient rich compost. So this sounds like amazing news, but here are some negatives. Not all items that are ‘compostable’ can be thrown on the home compost heap. Many can only be processed at an industrial facility – how many consumers realise this or have access to one? Brands need to be really clear about what they are claiming. If a consumer feels hoodwinked into thinking they are playing their part in reducing plastic safely, they will be unforgiving if this turns out not to be the case.

More consumers are starting to take the time to understand the differences in what these terms actually mean and are demanding more from manufactures, brands and local facilities. If you’re feeling the inevitable pressure in looking to change to respected eco alternatives, we can help you make informed decisions about the materials and plastics you use.

 

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* Health effects of ingesting microplastics – The Guardian