Bio-degradable plastics decompose in the sea.
This is false. When they decompose, bio-degradable plastics react with UV light, heat and oxygen or with moisture, heat and some organisms (depending on their properties). If plastics have a density greater than 1 g/cm³, they sink to the bottom of the sea. The bottom of the sea is dark and cold, meaning that the material cannot decompose. The problem of plastic waste in rivers, seas and oceans cannot, therefore, be solved by bio-degradable plastics.
Bio-plastics are not recyclable.
This is both true and false. Plastics made from I’m green, polyethylene from sugar cane, are fully recyclable. However, the same is not true for plastics made from corn starch or potato starch. The focus here is on biological degradability. These types of bio-plastics hinder the recycling process.
Plastic carrier bags are bad for the environment.
The plastic carrier bag has a poor image. It represents the throw-away mentality prevalent in today's society and is mentioned in the same breath as plastic waste mountains and plastic floating around in the world’s seas and oceans. Plastic is, however, not just plastic. The ecological footprint of a recycled carrier bag is significantly better than that of either cotton or paper carrier bags.
The plastic carrier bags and bags produced by Papier-Mettler consist of at least 80% post-consumer recycled material and bear the "Der Blaue Engel" eco-label. The German Federal Environment Agency only recommends the use of carrier bags if they are made from recycled plastic and bear the "Der Blaue Engel" environmental label.
Bio-degradable plastics are the most environmentally friendly plastics.
This is false. The most environmentally friendly plastics are recycled plastics. This has been confirmed by independent ecological audits and is also a statement supported by the German Federal Environment Agency. Bio-degradable plastics do not perform as well as recycled plastic in general terms, though in countries without a recycling system like the Dual System in Germany, it is perhaps of benefit that such plastics decompose. However, in all other countries, recycling is always the more environmentally friendly alternative.
Bio-degradable plastics are better than conventional plastic packaging.
This is false. The Institute for Waste Disposal and Environmental Technology (IFEU) has issued a clear statement on this subject. "The cultivation and processing of plants for this sort of packaging acidify the soil and eutrophy water to a greater extent than the manufacture of conventional plastic packaging. Higher levels of fine dust emissions are also produced. The bio-plastic bags that are increasingly available thus bring no environmental benefit."
Jute bags are the best thing for the environment.
Jute or cotton bags are often thought to be particularly environmentally friendly. Most people are, however, not aware of just what an extreme ecological footprint cotton leaves behind. Part of the reason for this is the fact that large amounts of water are needed to grow cotton. Pesticides and other synthetic fertilisers are also used. A cotton carrier bag needs to be reused 82 times before it achieves the same result as a carrier bag made from recycled plastic. The need for hygiene dictates that those who use such bags to transport foodstuffs will often need to wash them out. This also has a negative impact on the bags' environmental footprint.
Paper is more environmentally friendly than plastic.
This is false. Paper is made from wood. The amount of energy required to manufacture paper is immense and significantly higher than that of plastic. The results are even worse if both the manufacture and the transportation of paper bags are taken into account. Paper bags are heavier and cannot be as tightly packed as plastic carrier bags, which makes additional lorry trips necessary.
Reusable carrier bags are better for the environment.
Reusable carrier bags are made of plastic and are largely manufactured in sewing factories in Asia. The finished bags have to be transported a long distance before they can be sold at European supermarket tills. This is not the case for plastic carrier bags made of recycled material. Such bags are manufactured in Europe and for this reason alone have a smaller ecological footprint.
All bio-bags are competition for food.
Carrier bags made of bio-plastic are manufactured using differing proportions of natural raw materials such as sugar cane, corn, turnips or potatoes. In most cases, the criticism that this involves the use of foodstuffs as raw materials is justified. An additional criticism is that the agricultural land needed for the cultivation of these raw materials could have been used to grow food. Even though such an argumentation is correct, it is not true to the same extent for all bio-plastics.
Sugar cane for carrier bags made from green polyethylene (PE) is sourced from Brazil. The sugar cane farming area in Brazil extends over a total area of 6,144,000 hectares, representing 2.3% of the country’s entire agricultural area. The proportion of farming land used for the production of green polyethylene is 0.02% (56,400 hectares), and current developments show that the productivity of sugar cane farming is constantly improving. Sugar cane yields from existing production areas have risen by 3% since 1970. The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture predicts that even if Brazilian production were to double, a maximum of just 1.7% of land would be used for the production of green polyethylene by the year 2017.
Carrier bags are throw-away products.
This is false. Loop handle carrier bags made from recycled plastic have an average thickness of 55 micron. On average, people keep the bags and use them a further four to five times (source: Association of the Flexible Packaging Industry). When they are no longer needed, they are used by most people as rubbish bags, which reduces the usage and consumption of rubbish sacks. When carrier bags are talked about as throw-away products, it is generally the very thin vest carrier bags of the kind given out free of charge in supermarkets in many countries that are being referred to. However, this is an area which is seeing a shift in perspective, with a move towards the use of more reusable and recyclable loop handle carrier bags.