There has been some debate in the last couple of years about the best solution for the plastic bag problem currently plaguing us. Should we use biodegradable plastic bags or reusable carrier bags? Let’s examine the issue in a bit more detail.

Biodegradable Plastic Bags vs Reusable Carrier Bags
There is a common belief that because biodegradable plastic bags are BIODEGRADABLE, then it must be the best thing to use. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. These ‘biodegradable’ bags pose a whole new range of problems, so, they are hardly a solution to the current plastic problem. (To read about oxo-biodegradable plastics, click here).
Here we will examine the truth behind biodegradable plastic bags and explain why reusable carrier bags are the real solution to the plastic problem.


Huge Energy Consumption
The American Chemistry Council analyzed these biodegradable plastic bags to find that they require about 300 percent more energy to produce compared with their regular polyethylene counterparts. Moreover, their production used up 18 times the amount of water and it emitted 4 times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere!
So, is all that extra energy, water consumption, and CO2 emissions really worth it to produce a bag that will biodegrade? Most likely not. Which is why reusable carrier bags have the clear advantage, since they eliminate those problems altogether and get the job done just as well or even better.

Lack of Facilities
Another problem with biodegradable plastic bags is that you cannot recycle them with conventional plastic bags. So, because of the lack of proper facilities for their disposal, most of them end up in landfills anyway. And do you think they biodegrade in landfills? Not at all! They sit there, just as regular plastic bags do, contributing to litter and pollution. This is because they need proper facilities in order to biodegrade, and landfills just don’t cut it.

Too Long to Break Down
Even when these biodegradable plastic bags do end up in proper places to biodegrade, they still take a while to do so. In the right conditions these bags will break down into water, carbon dioxide, and methane. They should be composted within 12 weeks, and it will take about 6 months to fully biodegrade. However, this means that they will stick around long enough to cause harm to nature. Animals can mistake them for food. Also, if it is windy and these bags get caught on trees and bushes (as we’ve all seen before), they will not be exposed to microorganisms in the soil that are vital to their breakdown. So, in the end, these biodegradable plastic bags pose exactly the same problems as conventional polyethylene ones. (To read get some eco-friendly home tips, click here).

So, the conclusion is that there is certainly much less environmental impact from reusable carrier bags than from biodegradable plastic bags. Reusable bags also have a better performance overall, and, of course, they last! So, the choice is obvious – reusable carrier bags win in every regard.

For more information on biodegradable plastics, go to:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodegradable_plastic

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