Plastic Bags - PDF

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					                                     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.
•   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
                                             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
   plastic can be recycled and it is         different stores into one bag.
   therefore preferable to LDPE.                                      
                                         •   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
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  
collection points and a range of             environment.                       The Bag Bed – Reuse of Bags
items are manufactured from the                                       
recycled material.

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