Except for the small amount that's been incinerated - and it's a very small amount - every bit of plastic ever made still exists. ~ Charles Moore
In France and the UK there has been some effort to reduce the amount of plastic littering the environment by reducing the number of these plastic bags given freely to customers by supermarkets. They are small and lightweight and in the past in both countries you could more or less use as many as you wished for your shopping.
The two countries have taken slightly different approaches to try to improve the situation. In the UK you can still have free plastic bags but are encouraged to use larger and heavier bags (which you have to pay for). In France the same type of bags (below) are available but generally there is no free alternative, which tends to concentrate the mind!
Then there is the heavy duty plastic bag similar to these also on sale in larger shops.
The big problem with these re-usable bags, is trying to remember to take them with you. We unfortunately have a very large selection, having had to buy new each time we forget. I'm sorely tempted to auction them for charity:)
Other places, like Mr Bricolage, have gone for bags made from degradable plastic, containing TDPA which accelerates plastic degradation and biodegradation.
Some statistics from the EPI-global site:
- In 2005, the world consumed 235 billion kilograms of plastics for all uses.
- Plastics are ideal packaging materials due to their excellent properties, low weight, excellent processability and low cost and 40% of the plastics used in Europe and 25% in North America are used as packaging.
- All of this is ultimately discarded, most after a single use. In developed countries most of this ends up in landfills; in less developed ones unfortunately as litter.
- Most conventional plastics used for packaging can remain unchanged for decades after disposal.
My preferred way to help the situation though is a cotton bag of this type:
Other countries do things differently, and I'd be interested to hear how. I believe for instance in the US you use paper bags for grocery shopping.
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