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‘Biodegradable’ bags – not so biodegradable after all.

By 01/05/2019 No Comments

Tests show that such bags were still intact, despite ‘environmental’ claims.

We all assume that biodegradable plastics will take care of themselves; however, research shows us a completely different story. 

biodegradable bags

Researchers from the International Marine Litter Research unit took to examining the behaviour of biodegradable and compostable bags, exposing them to air, soil and saltwater. These three primary resources would be what the bags would encounter if people were to discard them.

Another study was observing the condition of the ‘biodegradable’ bags over a three-year period. After the set few years, the bag was still able to carry shopping despite the exposure to a natural environment.

The research tested compostable bags and conventional carrier bags to see how they reacted to natural elements; however, neither decomposed after long-term trial.

Researchers were shocked by their findings.

‘’After three years, I was amazed that any of the bags could still hold a load of shopping. For a biodegradable bag to be able to do that was surprising. When you see something labelled that way, I think you automatically assume it will degrade more quickly than conventional bags, but after three years at least, our research shows that this may not be the case.’’

Imogen NapperEnvironmentalist

The ‘compostable bag’ however performs much greater than the ‘biodegradable’ bag, with the material disappearing after three months in a marine environment. However, the only issue is, we still need to determine what environmental consequences there may always be with this.

On the other hand, when we expose the material to the soil, biodegradable bags as said were still able to carry shopping; however, compostable bags were evident after 27 months, yet could not carry anything without tearing.

So, are biodegradable bags any help at all?

The University of Plymouth’s International Marine Litter Research Unit has raised the question of whether biodegradable formulations can offer a proficient rate of degradation. Nobody knows yet if these ‘environmentally friendly’ bags are a realistic solution to the plastic pollution epidemic.

In the world, about half of plastics are thrown away after a single use, and considerable amounts end up as litter. Despite the charge for plastic bags, supermarkets are still producing billions each year, which is a significant problem.

Another issue is the fact that people still throw ‘compostable’ bags into the environment or bury them. This is still littering. These ‘biodegradable’ bags need the right conditions, including soil, moisture, microbes and warmth to be able to decompose effectively. However, people also don’t realise that ‘biodegradable’ bags don’t compost in a marine environment. Despite easily fooling people, they’re still a pollutant for sea life.

It will take more years of studies and evaluation to determine if biodegradable packaging solutions will be sufficient for the environment.

But, there may be hope.

People all over the world are working to tackle the plastic bag crisis, by inventing a new solution. In fact, Bali, Indonesia has produced a bag made entirely from plants called the ‘Cassava carrier bag’. 

Not only does this ‘plastic’ dissolve in lukewarm water, but it is also edible. 

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