New government policy means we’re now paying 5p for a plastic bag, in an effort to get us to use less and help the environment. It’s a fantastic idea, but it does slightly paint the plastic bag as the enemy, when in actual fact there are many advantages that polythene bags bring to the table. Here’s our top six list of the benefits of plastic bags.
Strong, efficient carriers
Polythene bags are lightweight, but strong and they do the heavy lifting for us. A bag that weighs six or seven grams can easily carry 6.5 kilograms which is approximately 1000 times its own weight!
Polythene bags have so many uses. A government study in the United Kingdom showed that four out of five people reuse their polythene bags. The study showed that the main secondary uses for the bags were as liners for household wastebaskets, storage, lunch and book bags and to pick up after pets. Can you think of all the different ways that you have used polythene bags over the years? We’re finding it a bit of a struggle now we’re paying for them and our under the sink stash is depleting!
Polythene bags are actually one of the most energy-efficient bag materials produced today.
The industry has now been practising ‘lightweighting’ for many years. This is the process of reducing the amount of resin material used in each bag. Today's plastic bags use 75 per cent less resin than 20 years ago and 63 per cent less energy in their manufacture, while maintaining the same strength and durability. There aren’t many other products can make this claim.
Reducing food waste
Polythene film and bags help protect our food from external contaminants, like germs and bacteria, which helps keep our food fresh. Plastics are one of the simplest forms of protective packaging and play an important role in our ability to reduce food wastage to around three per cent, compared with 50 per cent in less-developed countries. A study by Columbia University established a direct correlation between increased use of plastic packaging and reduced wastage of food.
Polythene bags are a perfect candidate for recycling and can be made into a wide range of products. Some products made from recycled polythene bags include new bags and other durable products such as plastic lumber for decking, park benches, picnic tables and waste receptacles. Whole new product categories are emerging using recycled plastic shopping bags, such as the composite lumber market which is growing at a rate of 14 per cent per year. A 2x6 composite board that is 16 feet long uses approximately 2,250 polythene or plastic bags.