Is there such a thing as a good plastic bag?
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
One of the hardest questions I get asked from customers is, "what type of plastic bag is best to use?"
Yes I know, the real answer is don't use one at all! Great in theory but, I happen to subscribe to the "let's be better and more sustainable and make change today rather than do nothing because a perfect solution does not exist" camp.
For most of the companies we deal with, their packaging finds it's way to:
Their own retail stores and warehouses where they can control it's recycling or reuse
Their wholesaler's stores, or
Directly to into the hands of the their consumers
When you consider this, there are different options to what might be best. If you can collect clean packaging for recycling in your own stores then, maybe an industrial partner can provide multiple options for you. That could be recycling of LDPE (standard plastic bags) or even compostable bags that can be processed by an industrial processor.
If your packaging ends up in a department store, do you know how they will dispose of it and can you come up with a joint response? Possibly, one of the two above?
For waste that ends up with the consumer, this seems the most difficult to properly deal with.
Compostable bag alternatives are a good story but, how do we as residents get them composted? Most Australian households do not have a composting bin, access to one or use it if it is there. This means most compostable bags, for now, go straight into general waste bins and into land fill. There are councils trialling food scrap recycling incorporating compostable bags so, maybe this will be a great avenue in the future.
Bio degradable bags are confusing to understand as a broad group of materials and many countries are re-evaluating their acceptance of them given the lack of agreed international standards. A few short searches to try and understand what I mean and you'll experience high levels of sustainability anxiety!
So, where are we today? In Australia, the practical realities are that we hope consumers will collect their recyclable bags and packaging and take it to a Redcycle bin at their local supermarket. This accepts standard plastics of the LDPE 4 variety. These plastics are made from petrochemicals so fail the 'sustainability' label. They are at least recyclable so, could be described as non single use.
What if though, these bags could be made from ethanol from sugar cane? Now that's an interesting prospect. Consider a plastic bag made from 60% sugar can ethanol that becomes standard LDPE 4 plastic and still is recyclable. 60% more sustainable and still recyclable. I think this product is the best we have today. There are some other benefits too, eg sugar cane absorption of CO2 in its growth.
It's another great first step every fashion business can make. The look and feel of the product is the same as the plastic you used to and the economics are approaching neutral for larger quantities.
Ask us to find out more.