x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

New plastic shopping bags are not so 'green'

The Ministry of Environment and Water has phased in restrictions on non-biodegradable plastic bags that culminate in a complete ban on their supply from January 1.

DUBAI // New-style biodegradable shopping bags may be less environmentally friendly than the ones they will replace.

The oxo-biodegradable bags, which will be used by supermarkets and grocery shops from next week, are made of a plastic that breaks down much faster than normal bags when exposed to heat, light and oxygen. But because these bags cannot be reused, campaigners say shops could be trading one environmental problem for another.

"The thing with oxo-biodegradable bags is that they need to be carefully discarded or they don't degrade," said David Wernery, founder of the PlasticNotSoFantastic pollution awareness campaign.

"Non-biodegradable bags can be reused and recycled but oxo-biodegradable bags cannot because they start breaking down, so they need to be carefully disposed of."

The Ministry of Environment and Water has phased in restrictions on non-biodegradable plastic bags that culminate in a complete ban on their supply from January 1.

The aim is to reduce the risk of plastic pollution, particularly from litter that can be eaten by animals or block drains, rivers and waterways.

The oxo-biodegradable bags will be made by a specially licensed manufacturers and will become the norm in shops over the next 12 months, with the older plastic bags completely banned by the beginning of 2013.

"The ministry is doing the right thing, but people need to be aware that these bags decompose only if they have oxygen, so if they go into a landfill it's doubtful that will happen," said Mr Wernery.

He said the ideal solution would be to send them to industrial incinerators where they can be disposed of safely, but urged shoppers to use reusable jute or cotton bags as much as possible.

"If you're using the old plastic bags, then use them as much as possible before taking them for recycling. With the oxo bags it's not quite as simple as they cannot really be reused because they break down. They also cannot be recycled. There isn't a simple solution to this."

Some supermarkets adopted the biodegradable bags months ago, although some consumers have said they are confused about what to do with them.

"With the older plastic bags I could keep them in the kitchen for months and use them again when I needed to," said Juliet Philips, a Briton living in Al Barsha.

"But these newer bags start breaking up after a couple of months and I end up having to clean out the cupboards and putting the plastic bits in the bin."

Mukesh Dias, an Indian national who lives in Tecom, urged authorities to provide more information on how to dispose of the oxo-biodegradable bags.

"There isn't enough information about what to do with these bags. I think we should have more guidance on how best to go about it."

Manufacturers of oxo-biodegradable bags said that, despite some limitations, they were still the most environmentally friendly alternative.

"The main purpose of these bags is to solve the problem of uncollectable waste and litter that results in animals consuming plastic bags. In that respect they will be very effective," said Winston Pryce, general manager of Eco-Polymers in Sharjah.

He said the new bags would take two years to completely degrade in the open air.

"The bags will continue to degrade when there is oxygen, heat and light available. The more of that there is, then the faster the process will be. "Eventually the molecules will be so degraded that microbes will be able to consume them."

Mr Pryce said a study by the UK's Environment Agency of high-density polythene plastic (old-style plastic bags), jute and paper bags found plastic carriers to be the most environmentally friendly.

He said using paper or recycled paper had an effect on the environment: trees had to be chopped down and replanted, and the recycling process used a lot of water.

nhanif@thenational.ae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TURN WORD environment

 

The Ministry of Environment and Water has phased in restrictions on non-biodegradable plastic bags that culminate in a complete ban on their supply from January 1.

The aim is to reduce the risk of plastic pollution, particularly from litter that can be eaten by animals or block drains, rivers and waterways.

The oxo-biodegradable bags will be made by a specially licensed manufacturers and will become the norm in shops over the next 12 months, with the older plastic bags completely banned by the beginning of 2013.

"The ministry is doing the right thing, but people need to be aware that these bags decompose only if they have oxygen, so if they go into a landfill it's doubtful that will happen," said Mr Wernery.

He said the ideal solution would be to send them to industrial incinerators where they can be disposed of safely, but urged shoppers to use reuseable jute or cotton bags as much as possible.

"If you're using the old plastic bags, then use them as much as possible before taking them for recycling. With the oxo bags it's not quite as simple as they cannot really be reused because they break down. They also cannot be recycled. There isn't a simple solution to this."

Some supermarkets adopted the biodegradable bags months ago, although some consumers say they are confused about what to do with them.

"With the older plastic bags I could keep them in the kitchen for months and use them again when I needed to," said Juliet Philips, a Briton living in Al Barsha.

"But these newer bags start breaking up after a couple of months and I end up having to clean out the cupboards and putting the plastic bits in the bin."

Mukesh Dias, an Indian national who lives in Tecom, urged authorities to provide more information on how to dispose of the oxo-biodegradable bags.

"There isn't enough information about what to do with these bags. I think we should have more guidance on how best to go about it."

Manufacturers of oxo-biodegradable bags say that despite some limitations they are still the most environmentally friendly alternative.

"The main purpose of these bags is to solve the problem of uncollectable waste and litter that results in animals consuming plastic bags. In that respect they will be very effective," said Winston Pryce, general manager of Eco-Polymers in Sharjah.

He said the new bags would take two years to completely degrade in the open air.

"The bags will continue to degrade when there is oxygen, heat and light available. The more of that there is, then the faster the process will be. Eventually the molecules will be so degraded that microbes will be able to consume them."

Mr Pryce said a study by the UK's Environment Agency of high-density polythene plastic (old-style plastic bags), jute and paper bags found plastic totes to be the most environmentally friendly.

He said using paper or recycled paper had an impact on the environment: trees had to be chopped down and replanted, and the recycling process used a lot of water.

 

nhanif@thenational.ae