The plastic bag is one of the most used products in our society, being popular in all types of industries and being practically within the reach of any consumer.
This fact, collides with the current environmental concern about the use of this type of packaging, since, while its use is only about 12 minutes on average, the time it takes to degrade naturally amounts to between 150 and 1000 years . Thus, plastic bags are not only the protagonists in commercial activities, but they are also the cause of major environmental problems. If you want to know the best alternatives to replace plastic bags, keep reading the following AgroCorrn article.
- Environmental impact of plastic bags
- Biodegradable bags
- Reusable cloth bags
- Buy in bulk
- Alternatives to reduce plastic bags
Environmental impact of plastic bags
We have already explained that the environmental impact of plastic bags is enormous , however, do you know why? Mainly, this is due to the fact that they are mainly composed of polyethylene and polychloroles, derived from petroleum to which plasticizers, colorants and other compounds that are difficult to decompose are added later. If we take into account that these elements take a long time to degrade and that they are often disposed of without any control, the result is that they accumulate in the environment or in the sea, causing really worrying problems.
In recent years, laws and measures have been applied in order to alleviate this problem. However, to stop the situation in a definitive way, it is not worth just reducing its use, but the most advisable thing is its total elimination and replacement with more sustainable options. Next, we are going to explain what the alternatives can be to replace plastic bags.
They are bags made from a mixture of organic materials , such as corn or potato starch and degradable synthetic fibers or petroleum fibers. They completely degrade after about 18 months without the option of causing any type of environmental or polluting problem. Some companies see them as one of the best alternatives on the market, however, there are studies that question their ecological value and that affirm that synthetic fibers do not fully degrade but rather decompose into microplastics that, although at first glance they seem less harmful to the environment, they have the ability to enter the food chain , causing problems such as the bioaccumulation of heavy metals.
Thus, although it represents a better alternative compared to plastic bags, it is not a perfect or final solution.
Reusable cloth bags
The cloth bags are generally made of cotton so degrade in periods of time ranging between 1 and 5 months, provided they do not present prints with inks containing lead or other heavy metals. To avoid this error, or even doubt, there are organic bags made from 100% organic cotton from plantations where neither pesticides nor chemical substances are used, so their use is highly recommended. Also, many of these bags can be found in fair trade stores .
Reusable cloth bags guarantee greater durability than plastic ones, and can be used repeatedly. In addition, they hold more weight and have greater capacity. Thus, seeing that they have many more advantages than plastic bags, it is incomprehensible how they have not been implemented as a definitive measure.
In this section we can also include the use of backpacks, wicker baskets or the well-known shopping carts, which in addition to promoting sustainable consumption have the advantage of facilitating transport without having to carry the weight of our purchase.
Next, we show you an interview we did with Mónica García de Verdonce, sustainable bags , in which she answered some questions related to Zero Waste and ecological bags.
1. Why did you decide to open a business like this?
We did not really open a business because of a decision, but rather because of the need to reduce the amount of waste we generate daily at home. We analyzed what was in our garbage can on a daily basis and we saw that one of the biggest sources of waste was the single-use plastic bags or containers that we accumulated when shopping for food. So we decided to start using reusable cloth bags to buy in bulk and avoid using mostly single-use plastic. As we did not find any natural fiber cloth bag, such as jute or cotton and linen, with the characteristics we wanted, we made our own bags for our use. It was then,
2. Do you think that the population is currently aware of the global problem of pollution? And the need to change your lifestyle to avoid making it worse?
I believe that in the last year, thanks to the information shared by experts in the mass media, personalities as relevant as Greta Thunberg and events such as the Climate Summit in Madrid have helped society begin to be aware of the great problem we have with pollution of the planet. And this, consequently, has made little by little more people interested in leading a more environmentally responsible lifestyle.
3. How can we really know if what they offer us in stores is a 100% biodegradable bag? If they are cloth bags or a similar material it is easy to know, but when it comes to biodegradable bags, sometimes, it is not so much. Is there some kind of stamp or some way to know?
It is true that at first glance it can be difficult for us to know if a bag is really biodegradable or not since they are very similar, but generally biodegradable bags tend to be rougher to the touch, rough and smell. However, “biodegradable” is a term that does not have an official definition or requirements, it can often mislead consumers. On the other hand, the term compostable means that the products are capable of completing the biodegradation of the compost and must meet specific decomposition standards in order to receive a compostability certification that complies with European Standard 13432.
In any case, one of the disadvantages of biodegradable bags is that they are single-use due to their fragile composition and this does not allow them to be reusable, which is one of the basic pillars for a Zero Waste or zero waste life.
4. Apart from plastic bags, what other everyday objects that are usually made of plastic (or a similar material) do you think we can easily substitute?
Many more than we can imagine at first. For example, plastic toothbrushes for bamboo ones, synthetic sponges or bath mitts for natural fiber ones, plastic bottles for water or other drinks for glass or stainless steel bottles, plastic bottles of bath gels and shampoos per bar of solid soap that are stored in jute bags, plastic straws for steel or bamboo ones as well, etc.
5. Can you give us more tips or keys to a Zero Waste life?
I always recommend following the 5 Rs of Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste philosophy in order, that is:
- Reject, what I don’t need.
- Reduce: What we need and cannot refuse.
- Reuse: What we consume and can neither reject nor reduce.
- Recycle: What we can neither reject, nor reduce nor reuse.
- Recompost: Compost the rest.
In the second image below, you can see some of Verdonce’s bags and sachets. In addition, we recommend reading this other AgroCorrn post in which we explain what Zero Waste is and how to be it .
Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk allows the consumer himself to use his own containers or containers without having to purchase any type of bag in the store. This type of business not only reduces the consumption of plastic bags for customers, but also reduces the overall consumption of plastic in the packaging of products.
On the other hand, bulk product stores prevent food from being wasted , since the person can buy the amount they need at all times without being forced to buy in excess. If you want to know more about this type of establishment, in the following AgroCorrn article we will talk about the supermarket without packaging .
Alternatives to reduce plastic bags
Science also collaborates day by day with the search for new materials and alternatives that allow the end of the use of plastic bags. In this way, a large number of scientists join in the research and creation of new products, such as bio-soluble bags . It consists of bags whose chemical formula has been modified, so that they are capable of dissolving and dissolving in water without causing harm to the environment or the liquid in which it is dissolved.
On the other hand, there is research that goes beyond the discovery of alternatives and materials that replace plastic and focuses on its elimination. We can highlight one of the latest findings, which has discovered the ability of a caterpillar, known as “the wax worm” to biodegrade polyethylene, relatively quickly compared to other bacteria.
If you want to read more articles similar to Alternatives to replace plastic bags , we recommend that you enter our Recycling and waste management category .
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