A report by the United Kingdom Environment Agency (EA) titled “Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags” concludes that single use plastic carrier bag may not be the environmental villains they are made out to be.
The science-based report based on the different types of supermarket carrier bags available, concluded that ‘typical’ lightweight supermarket plastic bags have a lower environmental impact when compared to cotton or paper carrier bags, and if reused often, their environmental performance is substantially improved.
With carrier bag bans and levies racing across the country, and indeed, the world, the Life Cycle Assessment report (first published in 2011), is gaining delayed support from oxo-biodegradable plastic manufacturers such as Canadian Company – Environment Products Inc (EPI), who this week claimed, “we welcome this type of scientific approach to examining the environmental benefits of single-use plastic bags”.
If the 120-page report has been available since 2011, one has to ask why it took EPI so long to study it; did the recently introduced carrier bag ban in Toronto have something to do with it?
With vital, scientific-supported information like the LCA of supermarket carrier bags available at our fingertips, one could also ask why Scotland is the latest country to consider a 5p carrier bag tax, and if our governments and environmental agencies are asking, the right people the right questions?
The LCA report concludes, “The environmental impact of carrier bags is dominated by resources used and production” and that “transport, secondary packaging and end-of-life processing generally has a minimal influence on their environmental performance”.
So while the source of the plastic carrier bag ‘problem’ seems to lie with the manufactures, the report also encourages consumers to ‘do their bit’ by reusing their plastic carrier bags as often as possible, and when reuse for shopping is no longer practical, to use them as a bin liner.