20 January 2010

Alternatives to Plastic Bags

For the Plastic Bag-Free Penrith Campaign:

Notes following a discussion with Zab at www.biodegradablebag.co.uk - who started out making (biodegradable?) agricultural mulch film. They are a manufacturer who make materials from granules. They primarily want bulk orders, eg 5,000+?

What is our aim?
- plastic-bag-free
- zero carbon town

Other considerations
- distance travelled
- ethically made
- not from food-chain

Best not to use a disposable bag at all.

Food bags must be FSA certified.

For alternative disposable carrier and food bags: choose your poison: there are four alternatives:

1. Recycled plastic
- not suitable for food waste

2. Degradable bags
- ordinary plastic with an additive
- breaks down more quickly than normal (3 months+) into water, CO2 and "non-toxic mineral matter" (ie not tiny bits of plastic?)
- they use an additive from Wales, been around for 20+ years
- other additives such as D2W come from USA

3. Biodegradable/Compostable, eg starch/cornstarch, to EN14322
- 3 x price, ie 10p/carrier or 5p/food-bag
- most starch not made in the UK, except bulk potato starch
- some from USA may be GM
- non-GM is more expensive
- starch could have been from food-chain
- anecdote: interacts with bread
- must go in compost, not landfill or plastic recycling

4. Recycled plastic with additive
- no new resources and yet breaks down in landfill
- can be recycled

The choice of which is best may depend on whether household rubbish is composted or incinerated.

Be aware that super-markets might be making money out by charging for disposable bags now.

Printed jute bags made ethically in India cost £2.50 - or £1.20 in bulk.

Printed cotton bags would cost £1.25 in bulk.

We also looking at using:

* cornstarch carrier bags from www.ecosac.net
- not from food-chain
- GM-free, grown in EU
- generic: 13p+VAT quantity 2,000
- custom: 10p+VAT quantity 20,000

* food containers etc from www.londonbiopackaging.com
- sugar bagasse container: 10p+VAT quantity 500
- film bag: 3.5p+VAT quantity 1,000

* Paper and cellulose bags from www.suma.coop
- cellophane bag: 3.5p+VAT quantity 1,000
- recycled paper bag: 1.8p+VAT quantity 1,000