Why switch to biodegradable shopping bags?
Whether you’re considering switching your grocery bags, shopping bags, or trash bags, biodegradable plastic bags are a great alternative to regular plastic bags, in that they do not harm the environment during their whole life-cycle. As they are made from 100% natural materials, they leave no residue behind, and compost perfectly with organic trash, such as leaves, food, liquids, etc. Their main advantage – apart from not harming the Earth in their manufacturing, use, and disposal – is that they allow consumers to carry on with their regular shopping habits, or kitchen, yard, and compost disposal habits.
Biodegradable plastic bags do not harm wildlife nor marine-wildlife, since they biodegrade in water and if swallowed by animals, are digested quickly as they disintegrate. Since they are made from natural materials they go back to nature, just like any fruit or leaf would.
There are various kinds of biodegradable plastic bags in the market, but most are not environmentally friendly. Companies are mostly claiming biodegradability and unfortunately the green-wash has taken over the lingo. Only bags (or any type of biodegradable plastic, for that matter) that conform to compostability standards ASTM D6400 or EN 13432 are truly biodegradable and can be trusted. Oxo-degradable, oxo-biodegradable, oxy-degradable, oxy-biodegradable, and degradable plastic (bags) are not environmentally friendly. They are merely plastic with a chemical additive.
How To Make Sure Your Bags Are Biodegradable
1. Check the vendor’s claims about the biodegradable plastic bags. If the bags contain plastic (or technically called Polyethylene), these are not biodegradable bags, but rather plastic mixed with a chemical additive that in a short time interval breaks the plastic molecular ties and thus the plastic disintegrates. THIS IS NOT AN ECO-FRIENDLY PROCESS! IT IS HARMFUL TO THE ENVIRONMENT!
2. Check if the vendor has certification for the material. The only acceptable certification should be ASTM D6400 and/or DIN EN13432.
3. If the price of the biodegradable plastic bags is very close to that of plastic bags, you are probably not buying biodegradable but rather the plastic with the additive mentioned above.
Biodegradable Plastic Bags
vs. Paper Bags
Paper bags are environmentally problematic. They are heavier than plastic bags, and therefore require more trucks for transport, they need more energy to produce, and require a larger amount of energy to recycle. Also, paper manufacturers deplete significantly more CO2 than plastic manufacturers. The fact that they are made of trees is also an issue, but it is also what makes paper biodegradable.
On the other hand, biodegradable plastic bags require less energy to produce, are lighter and take less energy to transport. Also, they do not deplete CO2 into the environment during their manufacturing, and are made from all natural materials.
Using Reusable Bags vs. Reusing Biodegradable Plastic Bags
Using reusable bags is a great way to care for the environment. When grocery shopping, or any other kind of shopping, reusing your bags saves having to use another bag. Biodegradable plastic bags are a great complementary product to reusable bags, in that they can be reused, and when disposed of leave no harmful residue behind. Also, if you forget your reusable bags at home, it’s nice to know the store (grocery, or other) has an alternative for its customers.
Earth-wise, biodegradable bags are essentially better than non-woven reusable bags, since the term “non-woven” is a delicate name for Polypropylene (a type of plastic) bags. This type of plastic does not biodegrade! Biodegradable plastic bags do biodegrade and can be made thicker so they may be reused, and later composted.