Measures taken by governments against the use of plastics bags are unlikely to bring net environmental gains, says the European Plastic Films (EuPF) group, a sector of the European Plastics Converters (EuPC, Brussels, Belgium) lobby. The trade group says plastics bags are popular with consumers and retailers because they are functional, lightweight, strong, cheap, and a hygienic means to transport food and other products.
The EuPF contends the bags make up only a small percentage of the total waste stream. The plastics bags processing and decorating sectors in Europe consist of more than 500 companies employing more than 50,000 people. Abandoning plastics bags may not be as environmentally friendly as [some] people think, says Bjørn Hoem, president of EuPF. Production and transport of paper bags, which are 10 times heavier than plastics, produce more greenhouse gases blamed for global warning than the lighter alternative.
The EuPF points out that different technologies such as bioplastics are also being commercially introduced and biodegradable plastics bags and packaging are becoming an attractive alternative for the food packaging industry. However, they are not seen as a solution to overall replacing non-degradable plastics bags at retail outlets, as they do not decompose in a predictable manner in traditional landfill waste depository areas. Hoem also says bioplastics can support a throw-away rather than reuse mentality among consumers.
A better means of controlling waste rather than outlawing plastics bags, says the EuPF, is to reduce plastics packaging in the waste stream, reuse bags, and recycle packaging waste plastics into alternative applications. We want to promote sustainability by moving away from the single-use and disposability mindset toward that of maximizing the utility of everything we use, thus protecting the environment. Continuous education is the key, he says.[email protected]