It bothers me no end to see stray cattle chewing on plastic bags. I strongly feel that stray plastic bags trash our communities — be it one floating on the edges of a lake, one clinging to a branch or one drifting leisurely towards the drains; but then I feel the same way about abandoned plastic bottles.
As plastic bag bans become widespread, some people have deep concerns and believe that critical questions need examination. Moreover, the discussion needs to be well grounded, so that decision-making derives from good science and sound policy rather than hype. The time is ripe for this, especially as LA undergoes its four-month long environmental review before codifying its Plastic bag ban into law.
Plastic bags are hard to get rid of — but does that prove the alternatives are decidedly superior?
There is, of course, the health and hygiene concern from re-used bags: cross-contamination (from raw meats), concerns for grocery workers having to deal with unclean bags, etc. This begets the question whether plastic bags will have to be continued for certain uses.
For example, in Delhi, specific bags have been retained for some food related uses and better recycling numbers will have to be targeted — currently, only 5% of plastic bags are recycled. Over the years, plastic bags have gotten increasingly sophisticated with the majority made of post-consumer recycled materials.
Re-use vs. Recycle?
Then, there is the whole reuse and recycle issue. A plastic bag can be re-used many times; as I wrote earlier, in India they are washed and re-used. Businesses will also take back and recycle the bags. The question arises whether this can be done efficiently enough as to make it worthwhile to use these.
Are Paper Bags Sound Alternatives?
Paper-bags are rarely as sturdy as plastic bags and even the sturdy ones don’t last half as long as an ordinary plastic bag. On the up-side they have the great advantage of being fully recyclable, but are the costs of recycling a paper-bag less than those of recycling a very re-used plastic bag? On the other hand, a couple of decades ago, plastic bags were considered panacea because they were replacing paper-bags and, thus, saving trees.
Can we get better compliance on recycling plastic bags if fewer restrictions – or none at all – were placed at collection-centers on the conditions of bags, so that people were not discouraged and constrained in bringing back the bags?
How About Polypropylene Bags?
I have written about my liking for polypropylene bags. And I simply love the guilt-free-ness of a bag of recycled materials that says: “I used to be a plastic bottle” or “I used to be a plastic bag”. The question arises about what the reusable bag is made of? Is polypropelene less costly to recycle than plastic or paper? I have yet to come across a polypropelene bag that will withstand unlimited washes; so, eventually, are we just deferring the costs?
These questions must be answered and the time is right, especially with hopes that LA’s review of its new plastic ban will be thorough.
Source: GO MEDIA: Writen by DR VANDANA PRAKASH