Two of the issues that concern us the most as a company are those of cutting down waste to landfill, and the overuse of wasteful single-use plastic carrier bags.
Therefore, it can only be counted as a victory that the so-called ‘carrier bag tax’ is a way of life in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Sadly, there are still no immediate plans to extend the 5p per bag charge to England, and we’re all the worse for that decision.
However, in the regions where the bag tax is being enforced, there’s still a debate about what to do with the millions of carrier bags that are still being issued, especially the more robust, longer-lasting bags for life. In fact, so seriously is this debate being taken, the Welsh government has extended the bag tax to bags for life a a reflection of the fact they are still thrown out in large numbers and are very slow to biodegrade in landfill.
An alternative to plastic bags for life that’s being touted is a return to the single-use bag. This may sound perverse, but one manufacturer says that they can be a viable alternative if they’re made out of materials that break down quickly.
That’s where oxo-biodegradable alternatives, says Ted Goold of Wells Plastics. Writing for Waste Management World, Goold says that oxo-biodegradable plastics, encouraged in some countries, break down very quickly after use. This degrading is so quick, he argues, that even when a plastic bag is dumped as litter, it will cease to be an issue very rapidly indeed.
Goold makes a persuasive argument for this technology, but we’d like to find out more before passing judgement. For example, how quickly – exactly – do these bags break down. And more importantly, what are the chemical by-products of the oxo-biodegrading process? It’s no point having these items if they break down to something just as bad.
These new bags aren’t the only player. The government is known to favour compostable bags as an alternative to plastic carriers. There’s currently a debate over which is better, which can only be a good as it brings the conversation about ending plastic waste out into the open.
Whatever comes into general use, one thing is clear – a plastic bag tax for England cannot come soon enough.
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