Reusable Plastic Shopping Bags Are Actually Making the Problem Worse, Not Better

woman at checkout stand paying for groceries that are packed in a reusable plastic bag

Over the past few years, reusable plastic shopping bags began showing up in grocery stores in many parts of the world. They are sturdier than the flimsy plastic bags that have become a symbol of the global movement against disposable plastics, and so can be used many times, lending to their marketing as the ethical choice for the environmentally conscious shopper.

But of course, these thicker bags require more plastic to make. That means they could only improve the overall situation if they led to stores handing out overall less plastic, by volume, than they would without them—by, say, replacing thousands of single-use plastic bags a shopper might otherwise use over the years. Because no matter the style of plastic bag, it will still contribute to the global problem of forever-trash entering the environment, and the greenhouse gases associated with manufacturing the bag from fossil fuels in the first place.

But it seems they haven’t. A 2019 report from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Greenpeace looking at grocery stores in the UK suggests that the plastic “bags for life” utterly failed to do the one thing they were ostensibly meant to. As of the time of this writing in 2019, the top 10 UK grocery stores reported selling 1.5 billion of these bags, which represents approximately 54 “bags for life” per household in the UK.

For comparison, the top eight UK grocery retailers—representing over 75% of the market—sold 959 million such bags in 2018. Some supermarket chains have seen particularly big spikes in sales. The frozen-food store Iceland sold 10 times more plastic “bags for life” this year, 34 million, than last.

The UK introduced a 5-pence charge for plastic bags in 2015, and the government urged shoppers to instead bring their own reusable “bags for life,” which led to a surge in purchasing of the reusable plastic bags from markets.

“Our survey reveals a huge rise in the sale of plastic ‘bags for life,’ demonstrating the inadequacy of the current policy which is clearly not providing a strong enough incentive for people to stop using ‘bags for life’ as a single-use option,” the report reads.

Food safety

Most reusable bag shoppers do not wash their bags once they return home, and the bags may be leading to food poisoning, according to Dr. Richard Summerbell, research director at Toronto-based Sporometrics and former chief of medical mycology for the Ontario Ministry of Health.[17] Because of their repeated exposure to raw meats and vegetables, there is an increased risk of foodborne illness. A 2008 study of bags, sponsored by the Environmental and Plastics Industry Council of Canada, found mold and bacterial levels in one reusable bag to be 300% greater than the levels that would be considered safe in drinking water.[18][19] The study does not differentiate between non-hemp bags and hemp bags, which have natural antimildew and antimicrobial properties.[20]

A 2010 joint University of Arizona and Limo Loma University study (sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, a trade group that advocates on behalf of disposable plastic bag manufacturers) they found that “Reusable grocery bags can be a breeding ground for dangerous foodborne bacteria and pose a serious risk to public health”.[21] The study found that 97% of users did not wash them and that greater than 50% of the 84 bags contained coliform (a bacterium found in fecal material), while E. coli was found in 12% of the bags.

Overall, those same supermarkets increased the volume of plastic packaging they put out—including the “bags for life”—by 18,739 tons (17,000 metric tons) from 2017 to 2018. “It’s shocking to see that despite unprecedented awareness of the pollution crisis, the amount of single-use plastic used by the UK’s biggest supermarkets has actually increased,” the EIA’s Juliet Phillips told the Guardian. The grocery stores’ plastic-footprint increase was caused in part by the reusable plastic bags.

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“We have replaced one problem with another,” Fiona Nicholls, a Greenpeace UK campaigner who is one of the report’s authors, told the New York Times. “Bags for life have become bags for a week.” The bags, the report says, should be banned. Instead, customers could bring their own bags to the market. “When we go shopping, we should remember our bags like we remember our phones.”

Zoë Schlanger

By Zoë Schlanger / Environment reporter

Source: https://qz.com

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References

“CTV Toronto – Reusable bags contain bacteria, mould: study – CTV News, Shows and Sports – Canadian Television”. Toronto.ctv.ca. 2008-11-27. Retrieved 2010-03-19.

#Grocerybagcrochet #PLARN #recyclingpolythene A bit of my effort in reducing the use of plastic bags. In this video I tried to show how to Crochet with Grocery Poly bags and how we can re-use poly bags to make a bag for life and can avoid buying poly bags from grocery stores. We can convert poly bags in PLARN (Plastic Yarn) and can make a stylish, beautiful looking and sturdy bag for life using these Polythenes. With a little effort and no extra cost we can make this beautiful looking (& ever lasting) bag and can pay our part in saving mother earth. 🙂

Coronavirus Lockdown May Save More Lives By Preventing Pollution Than By Preventing Infection

The global lockdown inspired by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has shuttered factories and reduced travel, slashing lethal pollution including the greenhouse gases that are heating the climate.

The lockdown may save more lives from pollution reduction than are threatened by the virus itself, said François Gemenne, director of The Hugo Observatory, which studies the interactions between environmental changes, human migration, and politics.

“Strangely enough, I think the death toll of the coronavirus at the end of the day might be positive, if you consider the deaths from atmospheric pollution,” said Gemenne, citing, for example, the 48,000 people who die annually in France because of atmospheric pollution and the more than one million in China.

Today In: Green Tech

Scientists estimate the U.S. death toll from air pollution at more than 100,000 per year, and the World Health Organization estimates the global toll at 7 million.

The global death toll of an uncontained pandemic remains largely a matter of conjecture. The most dramatic projections that have been released—too hastily to be peer reviewed—put the global death toll of an unchecked pandemic in the millions—total, not annual. Most credible estimates are much less. Some experts have compared it to the 1957 flu outbreak that killed just over 1 million. The toll from a contained outbreak would of course be much smaller.

Reductions in air pollution and global heating could save more lives.

“More than likely the number of lives that would be spared because of these confinement measures would be higher than the number of lives that would be lost because of the pandemic,” Gemenne said in an appearance on France 24’s The Debate.

The discrepancy in how we react to these divergent threats should give us pause, Gemenne said, to consider why it is that we respond so strongly to one with less lethality and so weakly to one with more.

“These are quite fascinating times. What surprises me most is that the measures that we are ready to take to face this coronavirus are much more severe than the measures we would be ready to take to face climate change or atmospheric pollution,” Gemenne said.

“I think this is something that should question us: why are we so much more afraid of the coronavirus than we are of climate change or atmospheric pollution or other kinds of threats. What is so special about the coronavirus that we are ready to put the whole world on lockdown because of that?”

Watch Gemenne on France 24’s The Debate:

                                

Correction: This story originally reported that the annual death toll from air pollution in France is 84,000. The correct figure is 48,000.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I’ve covered the energy and environment beat since 1985, when I discovered my college was discarding radioactive waste in a dumpster. That story ran in the Arizona Republic, and I have chased electrons and pollutants ever since, for dailies in Arizona and California, for alternative weeklies including New Times and Newcity, for online innovators such as The Weather Channel’s Forecast Earth project, The New York Times Company’s LifeWire syndicate, and True/Slant—the prototype for the new Forbes. I’ve wandered far afield—to cover the counterrevolutionary war in Nicaragua, the World Series Earthquake in San Francisco, the UN Climate Change Conferences in Copenhagen and Paris. I also teach journalism, argument and scientific writing at the University of Chicago. Email me here: jeffmcmahon.com/contact-jeff-mcmahon/

Source: Coronavirus Lockdown May Save More Lives By Preventing Pollution Than By Preventing Infection

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Subscribe to our YouTube channel for free here: https://sc.mp/subscribe-youtube China may have seen its first decline in carbon emissions in three years amid lockdowns of major cities that have closed factories and transport systems around the country to fight the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The US space agency Nasa recently released satellite images that show a drastic reduction in air pollution levels. On February 21, 2020, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) in Finland, said that China’s carbon emissions dropped by about 100 million metric tonnes over just two weeks. But researchers caution that the environmental impact of the Covid-19 epidemic may only be temporary, as they predicted emissions will rebound as China resumes industrial activities. Follow us on: Website: https://scmp.com Facebook: https://facebook.com/scmp Twitter: https://twitter.com/scmpnews Instagram: https://instagram.com/scmpnews Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/sout.

The World Is Choking on Digital Pollution

A problem without a name cannot command attention, understanding, or resources—three essential ingredients of change. Recognizing that at some threshold industrial waste ceases to be an individual problem and becomes a social problem—a problem we can name—has been crucial to our ability to manage it. From the Clean Air Act to the Paris Accords, we have debated the environmental costs of progress with participants from all corners of society: the companies that produce energy or industrial products; the scientists who study our environment and our behaviors; the officials we elect to represent us; and groups of concerned citizens who want to take a stand……

Source: The World Is Choking on Digital Pollution

The Ocean Cleanup System Begins Removing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – Sead Fadilpasic

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A Dutch non-profit organization announced they were working on advanced technologies in an attempt to remove the plastic waste from the world’s oceans. The Ocean Cleanup launched in September the cleanup system called “System 001” from the San Francisco Bay. On October 16, the system reached a location 240 nautical miles offshore, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, to begin the operation on its removal. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the world’s largest accumulation zone of ocean plastic pollution. It contains 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, covering an area twice the size of Texas……

Read more: https://techacute.com/the-ocean-cleanup-system-removes-plastic-from-oceans/

 

 

 

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