Plastic bags have transformed people’s life in more ways than one, however its disposal has become a herculean challenge for governments, urban planners, municipalities and waste management companies. Every year the world is consuming around one trillion plastic bags and one million plastic bags per day. In the United States, 100 billion plastic bags are being consumed every year. GCC nations consume approximately 20-25 billion bags annually. According to UNEP, every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 piece of plastic waste. A study conducted by the Ministry of Environment and Water in United Arab Emirates found that half of the camel deaths in the Emirates is caused by ingestion of plastic bags.
Change is in the air
Plastics has been a widely accepted and welcomed solution for packaging and other domestic/industrial uses, however, things have changed due to new environmental laws and regulations, public concerns as well as environmental awareness that are pushing for new products. Plastics are made from chemical materials, which have an oil-based origin (chemicals used on the production of these bags pose a danger to the environment as these chemicals are toxic and take decades to break down. Nowadays, the trend is to go for a single-use and short life biodegradable plastic bags.
Biodegradable and degradable plastics could be good alternative to conventional plastic bags. Nowadays, there are a variety of biodegradable and degradable plastic bags.
Biodegradable plastic bags are made from organic materials (plants-starch-tissues-wood). It is popular for food packaging and in the right conditions, it naturally break down. It takes 12 weeks to compost and fully biodegrade with 6 months.
The degradable plastic bags known as (OXO) made from petroleum products with additives to accelerate their breakdown to oxygen in the presence of special conditions and this type of plastic bags are recyclable but cannot be composted.
Time is really an issue with normal plastics but biodegradables take less time to breakdown in the environment and easy to be recycled. Biodegradables are environmentally friendly products due to their materials and manufacture process (few and harmful greenhouse gas emissions/and require less energy to be produced and recycled). It has helps in reducing the use of petroleum-based materials and thus saving oil.
Awareness and Legislation
Government based and non-government organizations from around the world have launched several educational and informational campaigns in order to support either banning plastic bags or using biodegradable and degradable ones. For example, in some EU countries and North America, big grocery shops sell the shopping plastic bag for consumer who wants to buy and never give it free. Alternatively, they can bring their own baskets or reusable bags. This is a strategy to reduce the consumption of normal plastic bags as well as encouraging good environmental habits.
Another strategy is to encourage supermarkets and shops to use alternatives to normal plastic bags such as biodegradable and degradable bags. Italy is the first EU country that has completely banned the use of normal plastic bags. Bangladesh passed a law to ban sheer plastic bags from use after clogging of drains due to plastic bags lead to deadly floods few years ago.
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