Thursday, 15 November 2007

Department of: That's Progress? Eco-Plastic Shopping Bags Cause Problems

Don't forget your canvas shopping bags when you run errands today. They're a lot more environmentally friendly than many of those "eco-plastic" sacks some merchants have started to use as they "go green."

Today's Le Devoir has a story which indicates just how problematic plastic shopping bags are. Some supposedly biodegradable ones can cause grave problems when recycled using current methods, since the chemicals which cause their decomposition can also degrade new plastics made from the recycled bags.

The information comes from an advance copy of a report by the Centre de recherche industrielle du Québec (CRIQ, or the Centre for Indutrial Research of Quebec) obtained by newspaper’s excellent environmental writer Louis-Gilles Francoeur. In it several different kinds of “environmentally friendly” plastic bags are reviewed. The best studied were those made by EPI, a Vancouver-based company that uses an additive called TDPA (Totally Degradable Plasstic Additive.) It causes no problems when mixed with other plastics for recycling and has the added advantage of decomposing in 90 to 120 days when mixed with garbage at landfill sites.

When the whole CRIQ report is made public, I’ll post links. In the meantime remember that it will take several hundred years for regular plastic shopping bags to degrade in a landfill site. That’s why London, England—among other small cities—are considering outright bans on their use. Strong canvas bags are by far the best thing to use for carrying home the bacon, and whatever you else you buy.


Martin Langeland said...

But please take pity on the clerk and sew a little hanger loop at the top so it can be hooked on the plastic bag hanger to stand open while the clerk loads the bag. Thank you!

Mary Soderstrom said...

Plastic bag hangers? Little hanger loops? My goodness, you're technological advanced there. Here I've never seen such a thing, and in smaller stores--where I shop frequently--they expect you to put your stuff in your own bag.

The big problem with canvas bags comes when you're really buying a lot: did you remember to bring in enough bags?