Plastic Bag Perils

Plastic bags only started becoming popular in the early 1980's. In the UK, we now have the single use carrier bag charge which has helped, to some extent, reduce the number of plastic bags bought, yet they are still widely used [1].

We'll Charge You for That Bag...Well, Some of You...a Bit

  • In England, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (retailers employing less than 250 full time staff) are exempt from applying the charge [1]. The government is now consulting as to whether to remove this limitation, and increase the charge from 5p to a 'shocking' 10p.
  • Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland introduced a 5p levy on single use carrier bags in 2011, 2013 and 2014 [2].

Bags Under the Eyes?

  • Sales of single use plastic bags fell from 1.75 billion between 2017-2018 to 1.11 billion between 2018-2019. While many celebrated a 37% decrease, the fact remains that's still around 20 bags per person just from the companies reporting usage! [1]
  • This number doesn't include bags for life which are made up of much thicker plastic [3]
  • In November 2018 a survey of Britain’s largest supermarkets and grocery chains revealed 10 major retailers are placing over 810,000 tonnes of single-use plastic on the market every year [3] - over three times the weight of all the wild Asian elephants left on the planet ( less than 50,000 [6] ).
  • On top of the plastic packaging already mentioned, the 10 leading supermarkets are also producing 1.1 billion single-use bags, almost 1 billion bags for life and 1.2 billion plastic produce bags for fruit and vegetables [3]
  • Many supermarkets have not yet adopted plastic-specific reduction targets [3]

Bag for a Short Life

  • Many retailers are selling plastic bags for life with the concept of if it breaks, they replace it. They do not expect the actual bag to last a life-time - even though, if it ends up in the ocean, it will. 
  • Most plastic bags for life are advertised as 100% recyclable. This still requires people to actually pop the used bag into a recycle bin. The latest data suggests only around 45.7% of UK household plastic waste is recycled [4].

Should I Tote it?

It depends entirely what reuse you can commit to. Cotton bags can last a long time with care, but you have to commit to actually reusing them. Their carbon footprint is higher than an average reusable plastic bag - you will need to reuse a typical cotton tote bag at least 173 [5] times to break even. 

At Tecorra, we are committed to minimising plastic waste and we stock a small range of high quality organic cotton bags. The best thing you can do is reuse what you have, and buy only what you need, when you need it.

 References

[1] House of Commons, 2019. Plastic bags - the single use carrier bag charge. https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7241
[2] Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, 2019. Single-use plastic carrier bags charge: data in England for 2018 to 2019. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/carrier-bag-charge-summary-of-data-in-england/single-use-plastic-carrier-bags-charge-data-in-england-for-2018-to-2019
[3] Environmental Investigation Agency, 2018. UK top supermarkets flood Britain with 59 billion pieces of plastic packaging every year. https://eia-international.org/press-releases/uk-top-supermarkets-flood-britain-with-59-billion-pieces-of-plastic-packaging-every-year/
[5] Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark, 2018. Life cycle assessment of grocery bags, https://www2.mst.dk/Udgiv/publications/2018/02/978-87-93614-73-4.pdf
[7] Elliott, T., Elliott, L., 2018. A plastic future: plastics consumption and waste management in the UK. https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-03/WWF_Plastics_Consumption_Report_Final.pdf

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