The battle of recyclable vs. reusable vs. biodegradable
With the heightened awareness of the need to find alternatives to one-time use plastic bags, we as consumers can be forgiven for getting a little confused as a result of the new jargon surrounding the recycling industry which is being bandied about lately.
Depending on where you shop, most buyers would have noticed the introduction of the paper bag coming out in full force lately. For years shops have been marketing their plastic bags as recyclable, hoping to placate the environmentally friendly masses with this terminology. However the truth is that a plastic bag is only recyclable if the purchaser has the intention of engaging in the process of recycling it. Buying a recyclable plastic bag is one thing for sure… but recycling it is a whole other process. Sadly, not all well-meaning shoppers end up following through on the act of recycling. And for all the enthusiastic new paper bag shoppers out there who believe that their R2 is a small price to pay for tenaciously saving the planet, there’s bad news! While only 80% of paper finds its way to the landfills, when it arrives there, it can takes up more space and weighs more than plastic so when they go head to head, kg for kg, biodegrading time can be roughly the same as plastic. Don’t misunderstand… the move to paper and the eliminating the option to buy plastic from the POS is a fantastic undertaking towards heightened awareness of the need to reduce plastic, it may well end up being not quite as good an option as we think it is.
As a verb dictionary.com defines recyclable as “to pass through a cycle again; repeat a process from the beginning”. What this shows is that when a plastic bag is recycled, it has to pass through the exact same process as when it was created. Plastic is made from gas or oil, which is a precious resource. Every time the plastic is made or recycled, it triggers the release of carbon emissions which are not good for the carbon foot print. While the plastic doesn’t immediately end up in landfills it still wastes our precious resources, soiling the environment as it goes.
On the other hand, when a product is biodegradable, it means that it is able to be broken down through a natural process of decomposition and is reused in the environment again.
Plastic is most certainly re-usable – it has that in its favour! But for how long? The lighter plastic bags are by nature going to stretch and tear because while plastic is used for its durability, it’s not infallible and will eventually wear out. Once soiled with animal products as fresh meat, it begins to smell bad and becomes an immediate health hazard which needs to be discarded.
Going for gold in the war of recyclable vs. reusable vs. biodegradable we need to add 1 more aspect to the mix. REDUCE!
Reducing in combination with replacing the use of recyclable or reusable plastic bags with fully re-usable ECO bags solves the problem. Not are you reducing how much plastic you buy, you are reducing the number of plastic bags that are being recycled and extending the life space of the bag more than 10 fold. Eco bags are durable, fully washable and reduce your consumption of plastic as a consumer.