Different types of single-use carrier bags can have different types of negative environmental impacts however all are equally as concerning. Plastic carrier bags are incredibly handy and relatively cheap to produce in mass however they do have their downsides. Typically the plastic polythene which is used to make many plastic bags is not biodegradable. This means it does not break down fully and small pieces of plastic pollute both land and oceans. Not only is the soil and water contaminated but it is also mistaken as food by land and marine animals whose lives are then put at risk. There are huge numbers of plastic carried bags that have been dumped and are floating in our oceans, which endangers all types of marine life.
Just like plastic bags their paper counterparts also contribute massively to the huge levels of waste that is littering our environment and dumped in landfills. But the waste produced is not the only environmental threat. Manufacturing paper and plastic carrier bags puts strains on resources and also produces high levels of dangerous emissions which contribute to global warming. Paper bags are responsible for large levels of deforestation occurring in the rainforests. It is clear that single-use carrier bags have many different negative environmental impacts and growing concerns have resulted in changes to attitudes and practises. So what are the more eco-friendly options that will help preserve our planet for future generations?
A carrier bag alternative which is becoming more and more popular on the high streets is the eco-friendly bag for life. A bag for life is a carrier bag that has been made for the purpose of being reused again and again. Typically this style of bag will be made from cotton, jute or polypropylene. Cotton and jute is a very affordable and sustainable natural material which has much less environmental impact in terms of waste, production emissions and resources. Polypropylene is a plastic material which still has negative environmental impacts in terms of production however will help reduce waste of single-use carrier bags as it is a strong, durable and attractive material which is perfect for bags for life. With greater numbers of people becoming concerned or aware about protecting our environment more people are using and buying bags for life. This is a step forward in the right direction, towards reducing waste levels and lowering emissions.
Bags for life offer many different benefits. They are strong and reliable enough to be used countless times to carry shopping products and to be used for other practical tasks. Many school children use cotton carrier bags to carry their books and stationary. Bags for life are also becoming a fashion statement as many of the reusable bags are printed or coloured with attractive designs or messages. Many supermarkets and retail stores offer their customers a bag for life option as it can act as an on-going promotional tool as their brand or logo is constantly being carried around on repeat shopping trips or daily tasks.
The usefulness and practicality that paper and plastic shopping bags offer means it is unlikely that we will see an end to their existence in shops and supermarkets any time soon. However with improvements in technology and desire to seek more eco-friendly alternatives we are seeing more responsibly sourced single-use carrier bags. Many supermarkets and shops who wish to promote their eco-friendly image are choosing to supply their customers with biodegradable plastic carrier bags. Biodegradable plastic bags will fully break down and decay reducing the amount of toxic materials or waste that would usually pollute soil and waterways. A normal plastic bag can take between 400-1000 years to fully break down and even when broken down still releases small toxic material pieces or particles. Biodegradable plastic bag can actually break down in 6-12 months which is a considerably shorter time.
Other more eco-friendly versions of single-use carrier bags include those that are made from 100% recycled material. Many supermarkets and stores encourage reuse of their shopping bags by printing them with a message or logo. Paper bags can be responsibly manufactured when the trees used for material are deforested from a sustainable source. A sustainable forest is one where trees are planted to compensate for the ones that are cut down for timber.