Bio-degradable plastics decompose in the sea.
This is not true. When they decompose, bio-degradable plastics react with UV light, heat and oxygen or with dampness, heat and organisms depending on their properties. If plastics have a density of more 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.
Plastics made from I’m green, polyethylene from sugar cane, are fully recyclable. The same is not true for plastics made from corn starch or potato starch. The focus here is on biological degradability. This type of bio-plastics hinders the recycling process.
Plastic shopping bags are bad for the environment.
The plastic carrier bag has a poor image. It represents the throw-away mentality in our 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 cotton or paper shopping bags.
The plastic shopping bags and bags produced by Mettler Packaging consist of at least 80% post consumer recycling material and bear the "Der Blaue Engel" eco-label. The German Federal Environment Agency only recommends the use of shopping 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.
Incorrect. 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 in overall terms. In countries without a recycling system such as the Dual System in Germany, it is perhaps of benefit that such plastics decompose. In all other countries, recycling is always the more environmentally friendly alternative.
Bio-degradable plastics are better than conventional plastic packaging.
This is not true. The Institute for Waste Disposal and Environmental Technology (Ifeu) has issued a clear statement in this regard. “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 a drastic 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. Reasons of hygiene dictate that those who use such bags to transport foodstuffs will often need to wash them out. This also has a negative impact on the environmental footprint.
Paper is more environmentally friendly than plastic.
This is also not correct. Paper is made from wood. The amount of energy required to manufacture paper is immense and significantly higher than for plastic. The result becomes 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 shopping bags. This makes additional lorry trips necessary.
Reusable shopping bags are better for the environment.
Reusable shopping bags are made of plastic and are largely manufactured in sewing factories in Asia. The finished bags need to travel a long distance before they can be issued at the cash desks of European supermarkets. This is not the case for plastic shopping bags made of recycled material. Such bags are manufactured in Europe and for this reason alone have a lesser ecological footprint.
All bio-bags are competition for food.
Shopping 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 is that this involves the use of foodstuffs as raw materials is justified. A further 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 shopping 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. This represents 2.3% of the whole of the agricultural area of the country. The proportion of farming land used for the production of green polyethylene is 0.02% (56,400 hectares). 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, only a maximum of 1.7% of land would be used for the production of green polyethylene by the year 2017.
Shopping bags are throw-away products.
Loop handle shopping bags made from recycled plastic have an average thickness of 55my. They are retained and used a further four to five times on average (source: Association of the Flexible Packaging Industry). When they are no longer needed, they are used by most people as rubbish bags. This reduces the consumption of rubbish sacks. If shopping bags are spoken of as throw-away products, the talk is mostly of very thin T-shirt bags of the kind given out free of charge in supermarkets in many countries. This is an area in which a rethink is increasingly taking place, and the move is towards the use of more reusable and recyclable loop handle shopping bags.