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Are Plastic Bags Recyclable

May 27, 2020

Plastic waste undoubtedly leads to global environmental damage. If you want to do something sensible about it, you should do more than just symbol politics.

It's this thing with plastic. As impressive as the advantages of this network of polymers are, its use has also become frowned upon. But first things first: The favourable properties of plastics seem to be impressive. So they are not too suitable for any shape, and the energy consumption during their production is often less high than some, supposedly more sustainable alternatives. These apparent advantages are often embodied, for example, by the well-known plastic bag.

Are Plastic Bags Recycable 

Plastic bags in the ocean

But their low manufacturing costs, ease of processing, and relative durability make them a problem at the same time. Because the plastic bag almost seems to be a little too durable. Because such a carry utensil takes decades before it begins to decompose and it often ends up where it doesn't belong: in nature. As early as 2010, a study by the University of Georgia estimated that around 4.8 to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic would end up in the world's oceans, and, if waste was still neglected, this would total about 250 by 2025 Will accumulate millions of tons. The study also says that this large and floating garbage can be reduced by many million tons. 


The first plastic-free store in Slovenia. At last! from r/ZeroWaste


For example, the size of this mountain of rubbish could be reduced by 41%. The top 20 countries with the most significant proportion of plastics that were misdirected into the sea reduced them by 50%. But what does all this have to do with the plastic bag? A whole lot!

Because the most important finding of the study is probably that plastic is by no means a secondary problem of the global community. Also that there is a problem in plastic waste that can be contained by establishing sustainable strategies for waste recycling, including the appropriate infrastructure and much better: no longer leaves so much of it.


Follow the good trend

The Federal Government now wants to do something about the latter and has launched a new draft law for less plastic waste and environmental protection. More precisely, the draft law provides for a "ban on the placing on the market of light plastic bags", which are above all "designed and intended to be filled in the point of sale". This means plastic bags with a wall thickness of fewer than 50 micrometres, which are mostly only used for pure purposes and not infrequently end up in the garbage can get together with the other packaging waste after shopping.  

That sounds pretty good, as well as the emerging trend of lower consumption of plastic bags per capita per year. While there were still around 68 in 2015, the figure in 2018 was only 24 - a decrease of almost 65%. This decline is probably the result of the "Agreement to reduce the consumption of plastic carrier bags" between the Ministry of the Environment and the German Trade Association, which was initiated in 2016 and is now to be advanced with a legal ban. It was agreed, for example, that plastic bags may no longer go over the counter for free.

According to the Plastic Atlas 2019, only 810,000 tons of it were recycled, which only accounts for 15.6% of the total amount of waste mentioned. The majority of other plastic waste was incinerated - a total of 3.15 million tons.


The best replacement for plastic bags

At first, it seems questionable whether a ban on plastic bags or even wrapping can reduce to such sums. The Federal Environment Agency refers to the figures from another study, according to which the proportion of plastic bags in the total volume of annual plastic waste is less than 1%. Even if only the plastic waste from film products is considered, the proportion of plastic bags, more precisely polyethene - which is often used for the production of plastic bags - is hardly higher than 6%.

To make matters worse, the legal prohibition of carrier bags only applies to those with a film thickness of 15 to 50 micrometres. In plain language, this means the significantly thinner fruit and vegetable bags, as well as the clearly thicker reusable bags, may continue to be placed on the market.

If this were banned, according to Environment Minister Schulze, then "pears would be packed again in smaller containers", and that would "lead to more packaging waste." Even with the thicker plastic reusable bags, you see no need to ban, because "the future is." clearly reusable," says Schulze. Not least because recycled plastics do not end up in the garbage, but are instead reused. 


Ocean pollution cartoon from local paper (USA). from r/ZeroWaste


This may seem plausible, but the draft law hardly manages to go beyond the essence of symbolic politics. Because if a ban is meant well, it remains inconsistent. Not only because America continues to occupy a top position in plastic waste production, but also because the advertised alternatives are often none at all.


A disposal for plastic bags?

Plastic bags are an environmental sin. It's just one of many, but this fact doesn't make it better. They are undoubtedly efficient, but we are not dependent on them. Here are seven alternatives to plastic bags that are environmentally friendly. If everyone reduces their plastic waste, the world may still be able to prevent a gloomy forecast: in 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.

Another aspect to consider is that the alternative bags are not only ideal for shopping or food storage - they can also be used to store the chips from the casino after happy games. These are the seven alternatives to the plastic bag:


1. Reusable silicone food bags

Correct: Silicone is not only an essential material in the construction industry and in cosmetic surgery but also for everyday objects. Resourceful developers have used the durable material to make food bags that do not contain latex or PVC. In addition, they are free of bisphenol. Another advantage is that these bags are suitable for the dishwasher and the microwave. They reliably keep the food fresh. They are available in different sizes.


2. Beeswax towels

Sometimes it's just more practical not to have a bag but to use wrapping paper. Regular paper is, of course, not possible because it would soak. The food would quickly go wrong. That is why the handle to aluminium foil or plastic foil often follows. But that need not be.

In the meantime, there are beeswax towels that are 100% free of plastic and do not harm the environment. Organic cotton, beeswax and jojoba oil, as well as tree resin, are used for them. The suppliers of the original materials must meet high standards. This is the only way that quality manufacturers can guarantee that the beeswax cloths are actually an environmentally friendly variant of the plastic bag.


3. Linen bread bags

Linen bread bags are very environmentally friendly. The linen is waste-free, and the fabric itself is entirely biodegradable. Purchases can be stowed away excellently in the pockets. The linen bag can be cleaned in the washing machine for hygienic cleanliness.

In addition, these bread bags inspire with another advantage: they are breathable, which is why bread can be stored ideally in them. It remains wonderfully crunchy and prevents mould growth. The optics factor should also not be underestimated: these bread bags look beautiful, which is why guests can efficiently serve bread in them.


4. Paper bags

Paper bags are probably the best-known alternative to plastic bags. In recent years, however, there have been calls that this variant is not more environmentally friendly. Besides, it is less tearproof and would not be suitable for wet or damp objects. There is not much to be said about the last two arguments. However, there are exceptions to environmental protection.

For example, some manufacturers make paper bags from waste paper, which makes them environmentally friendly. Furthermore, these manufacturers ensure sensible disposal and reuse, which makes them more environmentally friendly than plastic bags.


5. Reusable shopping bag

Reusable shopping bags are made from cotton and synthetic materials. They are environmentally friendly because consumers only buy them once and use them for years. They can be made of very stable materials so that even purchases of 20 kilograms can be carried in them. In some cases, they even have insulating layers, thanks to which warm stay warm and cold remains cold.


6. Reusable veggie bags

These veggie bags are suitable for shopping and storing vegetables because they stay fresh longer. The bags are made of eco-friendly fabrics that are breathable. They are closed with a small cord. These bags are available in various sizes. Conclusion: It is not that difficult to find a compelling alternative to the plastic bag. Consumers only have to consume with their eyes open. Opportunities are available in brick-and-mortar stores and online.


Plastic bags disposal

The adverse effects of plastic on the environment begin with production. Chemical processes are used to create plastics from oil, coal or plants. The smallest plastic particles are constantly released into the air, soil and groundwater. The disposal of plastic is also problematic for the environment since not all waste is recycled, and the material does not decompose through biological degradation processes.



Because of the harmful effects of plastic on the environment: avoid before recycling. Every household, business and retailer should strive to reduce plastic products. When packaging products, for example, consider whether you can reuse used films before they end up in the trash. Plastic waste is often challenging to avoid altogether. The correct separation and disposal of plastic are, therefore, all the more important in terms of the environment.

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