It is a Conundrum, least to say. We are just not ready to let go of plastic bags, despite the many environmental issues they cause. I judge this based on the number of plastic bags that businesses dispense daily. I am quite positive that people are using them more than necessary, especially at the grocery stores where double bagging and one item per bag are common practices.
Environmental agencies all over the World know about this problem and countries have been urging its people and businesses to use reusable bags, but success seem to be limited. The fact that they are convenient and cheap make plastic bags the winner easily all the time. Clearly, the success of the reusable bag movement is too small for any real change.
Some countries have taken the step to counter this problem through legislation. Western Australia for example will be banning single use plastic bags starting July 2018. In fact, many parts of Australia have already done that.
Supermarket chains in Singapore on the other hand have chosen to impose a levy for every plastic bag. I understand it is going to be a small charge of between 5 to 10 cents for each bag. Considering the affluence in this country, I am not sure how much that will work. But apparently, countries which charge for plastic bags have been reported to see a significant drop in plastic bags use.
Banning plastic bags works for me. I mean, what other options will I have besides the reusable bag? Boxes maybe? I feel legislation does work, but what about nations who have yet to consider this “drastic” move? I am not at all sure if they will ever succumb.
I feel that our efforts should be focused on alternatives, best practices and public education. Forget about paper bags because I found out that they are as much of a hazard to the environment as plastic bags are. In fact, they are worse. So, no paper bags, but what else can there be? Let me tell you one of my fantasies. I wish some day, someone will create a type of bag that is made up of a natural material that is renewable and can be disposed as easily as flushing it down the toilet or dissolving in water to be drained away in the kitchen sink. I will name it the “guilt free shopping bag”.
Guess what, my fantasy may just come true soon. I found GXT Green, a company that produces ECOgrade Degradable bags that are made out of Calcium Olefinic Glucosate (COG). COG is actually sugarcane pulp and bees wax. These bags are photodegradable in 240 days, and the bags can be manufactured for a cost that is similar to the cost of plastic bags. The ECOgrade Degradable bags are not exactly a complete replication of my fantasy, but it is really close.
I also got a tip from a fellow facebook user about a company called Avani which also produces bags made out of 100% bio-based material, also for a very low cost. Like the COG bags, I have no information about how cheap they are, but these two sure have a lot of potential.
Bio-based material bags, that look, feel and work just like plastic bags seem to be a direction that we can go. Cost is going to be a limiting factor for businesses to adopt these bags. But if they are really that low cost like what GXT Green and Avani claim their products to be, we may just have a winner.
We may have found alternatives in the form of bio-based materials bag. I am hoping to find more of such alternatives. In my next post, I am going to discuss best practices by businesses to keep plastic bags and packaging waste to a low.