Plastic shopping bags: From modern marvel to public enemy no. 1

February 01, 2013

There aren't many subjects that are relevant to every single country, region, city, town and rural area. Then again, when an initiative sets to get rid of an item that is present in every day life, the world is going to take notice.

Much like a controversial politician, plastic shopping bags hold the power as to completely divide families, friends, coworkers, and the list goes on. Some believe plastic shopping bags are an admirable invention that is convenient, low cost and is just fine for the environment. While the opposition views plastic shopping bags as an environmental eyesore that are polluting roadways, landfills and hurting marine life.

"Well, it's certainly a hot topic at the moment," Sukhraj Poonia, research and communication manager at PAFA, the packaging and films association in the UK told PlasticsToday. "I think there are many angles to consider, but we feel the public should realize the truth about the situation as well as clear up this whole notion that the plastic bag is this bad person. From our side, plastic bags are the most resourceful and efficient bag out there."

From San Francisco banning retail locations in the city from distributing plastic bags to a blanket ban on plastic bags in Delhi, numerous cities around the world have enacted some sort of ordinance on plastic bags. Other places, such as Germany and Ireland, have established a fee on plastic shopping bags.  

Leila Monroe, staff attorney for the Oceans Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council ( NRDC) said the council didn't start the bag ban effort, but they support it.

"I think people around the world have recognized the current way of doing business is not working and bans are sending a strong signal to both the industry and consumers," she said. "Cities will continue to work on various plastic bag ordinances and as more cities make those decisions, manufacturers, and hopefully the industry will recognize we need to move forward with a coordinated approach."

About 100 billion bags are sold annually around the world, according to SPI: The Society of Plastics Industry. Figures show 90% of all grocery bags are plastic. Some studies claim between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used each year worldwide.

Unless you're in an area where bans are in place, there's no denying plenty of plastic bags are currently available, which means you most likely used one today without even realizing it.

In this comprehensive report, PlasticsToday will take a look at plastic shopping bags throughout the supply chain, including inception, potential impact on the environment, an in-depth look at the economic effect of bag bans and taxes, end-of-life management and plastic bag alternatives. In addition, part of the series will offer readers a tour of Hilex Poly , one of the leading manufacturers of plastic bag film products and the operator of the largest closed-loop plastic recycling facility in the world.

A bag full of new opportunities

Prior to the 1960s, paper bags were the standard for carrying groceries. Still, some believed paper came with its limitations

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