A few disclosures before we begin the discussion on plastic:
(1) We manufacture skin and hair care, and yes, we use a lot of plastic. At the same time, we strive to make a difference on planet earth. Indeed, to make the world a better place.
(2) In my career, I have lectured in Marine Biology, Water Pollution Monitoring, and Ecology. I have also worked with Environmental Protection Authorities.
(3) I continue to work globally as a freelance consultant. This has included environmental consulting for a small island nation threatened with rising sea levels.
(4) And yes. It concerns us about plastic pollution.
I avoid jumping onto the latest trend. We apply scientific rigour to every decision we make, even if it’s not popular.
The environmental impact of plastic bags
Consider the impact of manufacturing on climate change, ozone depletion, water use, air pollution, and human toxicity. Shopping bags are the least polluting of other common options.
Consider this 2018 report from the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark: Environmental Protection Agency.
The Denmark study concludes that we must reuse cotton bags 7,000 thousand times. Then they meet the environmental performance of plastic bags.
Remember, they compiled this data from the effects of manufacturing. This included climate change, ozone depletion, water use, air pollution, and human toxicity.
One thing is clear from the data. Your usual plastic shopping bags have the least environmental impact. But, what this does not take into account is litter. A huge problem and no doubt plastics are the worst since they don’t break down quickly. In fact, they seem to be more green than for example cotton bags.
That’s because cotton requires lots of land, water (it’s a very thirsty crop), and fertilizers to grow. Then, it needs to be harvested, processed and brought to market. With paper bags, there is a lot of landfill produced during production. Transporting 1,000 paper bags in a truck consumes much more fuel than transporting 1,000 thin plastic bags.
The implications of bans
Globally, bans and restrictions are gaining momentum. A more pressing question now is a replacement. For example, paper bags are not the answer. Making a paper bag also requires more energy and water than making a plastic bag.
The way ahead
It’s all about personal decisions. Regardless of the bag you choose to use, a more important decision is what you do with it, and how you use it. The issue is not plastic, but how it is used by humans.
It would seem that using reusable plastic bags — whether made of recycled plastic, nylon, or woven polypropylene — is best. When you can use a bag so many times, eventually you reach a break-even point. You should buy reusable bags that are washable, and durable.
It’s all about being conscious of your personal contribution to environmental problems. For example, eating less meat. Buying locally made. Taking the stairs, not the elevator. Walking or cycling, and using public transport.
Collectively these make a difference. So get into the habit of reusing. Limit buying new. Reduce consumption.
Discover Indochine Natural today.
Dr Mike Thair
Indochine Natural Sdn Bhd