Carrier bag disposal and recycling

We use carrier bags nearly every day – whether you are picking up your Friday night takeaway from your favourite restaurant or heading to the supermarket to do some grocery shopping. However, carrier bags also take up a vast proportion of waste sent to landfill sites each year – meaning it’s vital that we begin to dispose of them correctly.

Carrier bag disposal and recycle

What type of waste are carrier bags?

Carrier bags are typically made from either HDPE (high-density polythene) or LDPE (low-density polythene). As a result, they are classified to be a type of plastic waste. Recycling LDPE products can be difficult as the materials are hard to break down and resistant to chemicals. Despite this, there are various initiatives in place that make it possible to recycle carrier bags instead of simply throwing them away.

Who invented carrier bags?

Before plastic carrier bags were introduced into the market, most bags were made from some woven fabric. However, the carrier bags we know today were actually invented in the 1960s by Sten Gustaf Thulin. Thulin was an engineer working for a packaging company who realised that thin, flexible packaging could be the solution his company was looking for.

What are carrier bags made from, and how are they made?

What materials are carrier bags made from?

APlastic carrier bags are typically made from polyethene. Polythene is a lightweight, durable plastic which makes it perfect for all forms of packaging. In addition to plastic bags, it’s also used for products such as cling film, sandwich bags and even plastic bottles.

How are carrier bags made?

Polythene pellets are put into a machine that causes them to melt and liquify.

The plastic is placed into a machine that blows the melted pellets into a tube shape. This process is typically known as extrusion.

As the plastic cools, it is flattened into one thin sheet of plastic. The thickness of the sheet depends on the kind of bag being created, as some are designed to be more durable than others.

Once flattened, the plastic is cut to the desired length of the manufacturer – again, this varies depending on the bag being created.

If the bag requires any branding, the ink is added to the carrier bag during this stage. For example, this could include supermarket logos or distinctive colours.

The bag is then run through another machine, which creates the typical bag shape – before the top of the bag is pierced to make the handles. The bag is then sealed ready for use.

Carrier bag disposal.

How should you dispose of carrier bags?

As mentioned previously, soft plastic products can sometimes be challenging to recycle. As a result, it is advised that you do not place them alongside your general waste or the rest of your plastic recycling. However, this does not mean that you cannot recycle them. For example, many supermarkets have set up collection bins for plastic bags and similar products. If you use a large volume of carrier bags in the running of your business, you are responsible for ensuring these products are disposed of correctly. To achieve this goal, you should:

Ensure bags are free from continents before throwing them away.

Store bags in the appropriate recycling bin or container – away from the rest of your plastic products.

Arrange for waste to be collected regularly.

Next steps

What happens to carrier bags after they have been put in the bin?

If plastic carrier bags end up on a landfill site, it’s estimated they can take upwards of 1,000 years to break down – however, even after this time, they do not degrade completely. Instead, plastic carrier bags photo-degrade, which means they turn into microplastics that contribute significantly to pollution. However, they can easily be recycled if taken to the appropriate facility with specialist machinery. Here, the plastic bags are fed into a large machine which breaks them down into smaller pellets once again. These pellets can either be reused to make new bags or used to create other polyethene products.

Alternatives to Carrier Bags.

What are some eco-friendly alternatives to carrier bags?

In 2015, the UK government aimed to cut down on single-use carrier bags by introducing a 5 pence charge per bag. This scheme aimed to encourage users to reuse bags or bring alternatives from home – and has proven to be very successful. For example, according to a recent BBC report, the average adult now buys just four single-use carrier bags a year – compared to approximately 140 before the scheme was introduced. Thankfully, there are various alternatives to carrier bags:

    Bags for life (designed for long-term use)
    Tote or fabric bags
    Mesh bags
    Paper bags

Can you do anything with carrier bags instead of throwing them away?

The most obvious way to reduce the amount of carrier bag waste you produce is by simply reusing carrier bags as opposed to simply throwing them away. After all, you can use these products multiple times over because they are incredibly durable and long-lasting. If you find that you constantly forget to take bags with you whenever you go shopping – try leaving a few in the back of your car.

What are the costs associated with recycling and disposing of carrier bags?

If you produce large volumes of carrier bag waste, there will be some cost associated with their disposal. However, this is a worthwhile cost when you consider that you’ll be helping to protect the planet and reduce pollution. Furthermore, at Business Waste, we pride ourselves on keeping these costs as low as possible. For example, we’ll start by providing you with free access to bins and storage containers before creating an effective waste management plan for your business.

How many carrier bags are there?

According to a recent study, we use over 500 billion plastic bags each year – this totals out at around 150 bags per person.

How many carrier bags are in landfills?

It’s estimated that over 1 million plastic bags are sent to landfill sites every minute.

Facts about Carrier Bags

73% of the waste found on beaches is made from plastic products, such as carrier bags. (National Geographic).

When plastic bags end up in the ocean, they can contaminate water streams and cause the death of numerous marine animals who may mistake them for food.

Less than 10% of plastic used in the UK is recycled appropriately.

Where can you take these items to recycle/dispose of them for free?

Due to the dangers associated with carrier bags being sent to landfill sites, there are many initiatives in place that enable you to recycle them for free. For example, many supermarkets have collection points set up in-store to collect products that you cannot throw away alongside the rest of your recycling. Alternatively, you can take these products directly to local recycling centres.

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