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Earth friendly plastic bags

Plastic bags and the environment

When my parents were growing up, plastic bags were somewhat of a luxury. I remember my mother telling me stories of weekly plastic bag washing - they really made the most of them.

As the plastic bags became cheaper, well, we ended up with the situation we have today. Literally billions of plastic bags discarded that won't break down in the environment for hundreds of years.

Most plastic bags are mainly made from Polyethylene, which is a by-product of the petroleum industry. Not only are there issues with the rate at which these bags break down, but the chemicals released as part of the decomposition process; organo-chlorine (highly toxic), methane (a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming) and nitrous oxide.

There are alternatives and the most earth friendly option may surprise you.

Oxo-biodegradable plastic

Oxo-biodegradable plastic is still made from petroleum by-products, but doesn't give off the above toxins. Bacteria break down the plastic into CO2, water, and humus.

Hydro-biodegradable bags.

Hydro-biodegradable bags are made from starch-based plastics; i.e. plants. But it's not as earth-friendly as it sounds. Aside from expense and strength issues, in order to break down they must be in an environment with a lot of bacteria and during the decomposition process they give off a great deal of methane and carbon dioxide.

Of course, the best bags are the ones made from organic materials that you can reuse. A huge industry has started up in the production of reusable bags, but unfortunately, many of these products are only good for so many uses and then they are discarded. The problem is that in some cases, the bag contains as many harmful chemicals as the sum total of the disposable bags it is meant to replace!

Wherever possible, buy earth friendly bags made of hemp or other renewable materials that aren't harsh on the environment in their production.

Have a plastic bag related tip you'd like to share? Please add it below :)

Michael Bloch
Green Living Tips.com
Green Living Tips is an online resource powered by renewable energy offering a wide variety of earth friendly tips, green guides, advice and environment related news to help consumers and business reduce costs, consumption and environmental impact on the planet.