March 14, 2018 11:21 | By Benita Dreyer-Andersen

The environmental impact from conventional plastic bags is significantly less than the impact from bags of biodegradable plastic, paper, and cotton, study finds

A new study has highlighted the dangers of politically driven rhetoric when combating the use of single use plastics. It's easy to conclude that plastic litter is damaging the environment but what about the effects of the alternatives?

Plastic BagForget using shopping bags made of bio-degradable plastic, cotton or paper. Conventional plastic bags are the best choice for the environment.

This is the conclusion in a new, comprehensive life-cycle analysis, which The Environmental Faculty at the Danish Technical University (DTU) has carried out for the Danish EPA.

The DTU has studied the overall environmental impact of production, use and subsequent waste treatment of each of the types of bag studied. The analysis shows that a paper bag has to be re-used 43 times to match the environmental impact of a conventional plastic bag that is used only once. In other words, the paper bag's environmental impact is 43 times higher than the impact of a plastic bag. For conventional cotton bags, the number is 7,100 and for organic cotton the number is an incredible 20.000. The plastic bag is therefore the best choice from an environmental perspective according to the study. “This is good news for the plastic industry”, says the Danish Plastic Association (“Plastindustrien”). “The plastic bag is probably the most criticized of all plastic products in the public debate. The analysis here shows that the criticism is unfounded. The plastic bag is and becomes the most environmentally friendly choice when comparing with the alternatives”, says Thomas Drustrup, Chief Executive Officer of Plastindustrien.The report can be can be viewed here

Facts: How many times should you use your shopping bag?

Below you can see how many times you should reuse a bag of a material other than regular plastic to match the environmental impact of the conventional plastic bag. The starting point is that the plastic bag is only used once and then used as a rubbish bag. If the plastic bag is used repeatedly, the other bag types must be used even more times to match the impact of the plastic bag.

Bag Type Estimated no. of uses
Conventional Plastic 1
Paper Bag Approx. 40
Biodegradable Plastic Approx. 40
Fabric / Cotton 7,000 to 20,000
Source: DTU Environmental Faculty
Translated from an article in Plasforum which can be viewed here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.