Plastic Bags While plastics are a useful man-made product, they have a long lifecycle with a high impact on the environment. Governments, businesses and community groups around the world spend time and money each year to clean up plastics that are not recycled or disposed of thoughtfully, and to repair resulting environmental damage. Did you know? The Issues • Plastic bags can last up to Natural Resources Wildlife 1,000 years in the environment. Plastic bags are made from a by- As a consequence of the longevity product of gas and oil refining, of plastic and its ability to travel long • A car can drive 115 metres distances it impacts heavily on called ethylene. on the amount of petroleum wildlife. used to make 1 plastic bag. Crude oil, gas and coal are all non- renewable resources and all have Animals can become entangled in • Recycled plastic takes 70% plastic debris. other common uses. less energy to produce than new plastic. Marine animals such as dolphins, Far reaching effects turtles and whales ingest bags by • Plastic bag remnants were mistaking them for food, then choke found in the gullets of 90% Plastic bags that are not reused or or starve to death because they are of albatross chicks on the recycled end up in landfill or as litter unable to digest them. remote Midway Island, in the on land and in the sea. Plastics do Pacific Ocean. Already endangered species such not decompose and as a result the as turtles, manatees and some seal • Plastic kills up to 1 million amount of plastic in the environment species are being put at further risk sea birds, 100,000 sea increases each year. by this problem. mammals and countless fish Because plastic bags are each year. lightweight and moisture resistant, When the animal dies, the bags are • Certain types of plastic bags they float easily in air and on water, set free from the decomposing potentially travelling long distances. carcass and can go on to harm other have been banned from stores in Bangladesh, Economic costs are associated with animals. Taiwan and parts of India, cleaning up the plastics. Australia and South Africa. Plastic bag litter is visually • A levy on plastic bags has unattractive and can have serious been introduced in Ireland impacts on wildlife, domestic and Denmark to reduce animals and drainage systems. consumption. • Clean Up the World Increased flooding in towns has Chairman, Mr Ian Kiernan, occurred when plastic bags block up founded the campaign after drains and sewers in areas of high noticing the amount of rainfall. plastic and litter floating in the ocean while sailing around the world. Avoid, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Whilst the reuse and recycling of bags and the use of biodegradable plastics can reduce environmental effects, each new plastic bag still uses valuable resources and can have environmental implications. The best option for the future is to focus on reducing our dependence on plastic bags by using reusable alternatives. Reduce and Re-use Tips for Retailers Degradable Bags Try to use a plastic bag alternative such as a cloth or string bag, a • Offer reusable alternatives, Degradable plastics offer a basket or a box. If you have to use a such as calico and string bags, potential solution. They can plastic bag try to reuse it as much baskets and boxes. biodegrade into their as possible and ensure it is • Ask consumers whether they component materials or disposed of correctly when it is no need a bag for small purchases. degrade, through light and heat, longer of use. If disposed of in • Train staff to pack items in a into smaller pieces of plastic. landfill, fencing or other precautions way that minimises the number The time taken and conditions should be made to prevent the bags of bags used. required for breakdown depend escaping into the environment. • Monitor bag use over a given on the design and composition period to use as a benchmark of the plastic. Recycling for measuring reduction. However, degradable bags Recycling is a good way of reusing Provide recycling drop-off bins. require "ideal" conditions to valuable plastic resources and break down efficiently and can Tips for Shoppers still introduce toxins and small avoiding them ending up as waste. • Use reusable alternatives such plastic pieces into the Remember that a recycling program environment. as cloth or string bags, boxes will require a high level of and baskets. Whilst degradable bags are a infrastructure and a market for the final products. • Use reusable containers for useful alternative they still use storing and transporting food. valuable resources and Plastic bags are made from two contribute to environmental main types of plastic: • Carry smaller items in your waste. hands or a shoulder bag. 1. HDPE – High Density Polyethylene. This material • Reuse bags for subsequent Further Information shopping trips. makes up the thin-style of bag Clean Up the World most commonly used. This • Consolidate purchases from www.cleanuptheworld.org plastic can be recycled and it is different stores into one bag. therefore preferable to LDPE. www.marinedebris.cleanup.com.au/ • Take bags back for recycling. 2. LDPE – Low Density • Reuse bags for storage of food American Plastics Council Polyethylene. This material and clothing. www.americanplasticscouncil.or makes up the thicker-style of g • Line your bin with newspaper plastic bag that is not usually instead of plastic bags. Environment Australia recyclable. www.ea.gov.au In some countries plastic bag • Dispose of any plastic bags recycling schemes are in place. thoughtfully so that they do not Film and Bag Federation Consumers take their HDPE bags to end up as litter in the www.plasticbag.com collection points and a range of environment. The Bag Bed – Reuse of Bags items are manufactured from the www.bagbed.com recycled material.