Plastic Bags

Thought it would be nice to let you lot know what is going on and any future plans etc.
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Andy Hamilton
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Plastic Bags

Post: # 2128Post Andy Hamilton
Tue Apr 19, 2005 12:19 am

One thing that really winds me up is the use of plastic carrier bags. After a discussion with some friends down the pub tonight We decided that there can be some action to take over this one.

I am working on a word document that can be downloaded then printed off. As some of you older posters on this forum might know I get things done but I can take some time to do it. :oops:

OK the word document just says "Please ask if you require a carrier bag, (company name) is trying to reduce the unnecessary use of plastic and the impact it has on our environment"

Tomorrow I am going to print this statement out and offer it to as many shops in Bath that I can. Please try and do the same where you live. The only reason I say that I will create a word doc is to make it easier, but crap just copy and paste it.

If you think that this is an unworthy cause then look up the amount of time plastic takes to degrade. Errr right getting too much into my personal beliefs... will end with this quote

I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine
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Post: # 2130Post Wombat
Tue Apr 19, 2005 2:36 am

G'DAy Andy,

This has become somewhat of an issue here and many shops are now charging for plastic bags and providing, at modest cost, reusable cloth ones. I think that your idea is a bloody good one and any reduction in these damn things is good! :mrgreen:

Nev
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Plastic Bags

Post: # 2173Post PlayingWithFire
Wed Apr 20, 2005 9:39 am

I'm right behind you.

I like the reusable cloth bags - and I think the alternatives to plastic are worth considering and promoting - after all, our economy is based upon consumption - so it rarely works to just reduce use, unless an alternative product replaces it. (Just my opinion).

We have a canvas shopping bag and my rucsacs but there are times when my shopping is spontanious (woo hoo, excitement) and at the store (T***o) there is no alternative to the plastic.

They have seen organic produce become popular in store and are increasing the range - wouldn't it be good if there were bags from natural products, reusable like plastic bags but biodegradable and non toxic?

People like plastic bags because they are so useful - keeps rubbish away from your hands (urgh, people hate dirt nowadays. Silly), lining waste bins, wrapping sandwiches, gathering dog poo, etc etc. There needs to be an alternative bag.

Maybe if we all get knitting nettles we can start a new cottage industry?
Yeah ... after you!

I am trying to minimise the bags I use, carry empty ones when I go out gathering, shopping etc ... but like any normal person ... I am hooked on convenience ... and unless I have a choice I will end up using bags made from mineral oil that take ages to degrade.

And - plastic bags are horrible - to touch and the sound of them - aargh -they reduce the quality of our lives! They smell, make food smell - and don't even try tasting them! They are very unpleasant things (but convenient).

Lets put our heads together - identify an alternative and if it exists - promote it ... get it into the stores ... people will buy it!
If it does not exist - lets encourage its production with a campaign - just like your Word Doc.

Good on you for taking action!

The opinions above a purely off the top of my head! (Like me you could say!) ... and since I have just jumped into this subject without knowing your previous comments, I apologise if my thoughts are misplaced.

What do folk think?

With good intentions
Malcolm
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Plastic Bags

Post: # 2174Post PlayingWithFire
Wed Apr 20, 2005 9:42 am

Who is the expert on paper bags?
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Post: # 2175Post Andy Hamilton
Wed Apr 20, 2005 10:04 am

I think that in america many stores will offer paper or plastic.

I like the idea of taxing bags and many countries are adopting this tact, we seem to be lagging behind as ever.

Fair point about the alternaitves some places such as somerfield and Dixons have introduced degradable bags but we are still using up resources.

Their are alternatives out there, 'bag for life' is offered by many supermarkets and some charities are giving out jute bags and hemp bags. Have a look at what envolve in Bath are doing http://www.envolve.co.uk/projects/susforum.html#bags. Although I can't see anyone using them for dog poo.

My point really is not so much for a total ban on bag use (although that would be fantastic) it is just to up the level of awarness. I often see people who have been around town shopping with a mass of bags, pointless. Why can't stuff be put into one bag? Or people with rucksacks on their backs taking carrier bags or worse still putting full carrier bags into their rucksacks. It is just wastefull for no reason. My biggest bug bear is those little 'CD' bags, what use it that after you have carried it home in a larger bag.
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Re: plastic bags

Post: # 2177Post FluffyMuppet
Wed Apr 20, 2005 10:23 am

Oxford City Council have a scheme to give people free reusable bags to use instead of plastic carriers.

http://www.oxford.gov.uk/services/plastics.cfm

I have 4 calico bags which I originally got from a WWF Christmas catalogue. They fold up into calico envelopes. I generally keep a set in the car and one in my work bag - this covers most spontaneous shopping trips as long as I remember to put them back!

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Plastic Bags

Post: # 2178Post PlayingWithFire
Wed Apr 20, 2005 10:24 am

:flower:
Shop assistants often look at me as a freak - because I ask them not to put "a product" into a bag, nor that into another bag, etc. (I am sure this is your experience too, though my face might make me more freakish).

It amuses me when they put a product into a bag when I am stood there holding an empty bag! So, with every transaction I get a chance to raise awareness. And it is getting better, at a glacial pace. (Scotland is way behind southern England though!)

So, I agree - most important is raising awareness. Your sign is a good part of this ... I am sure the public will respond with extra confidence and happily - if they feel part of a group or campaign. People don't like being different or awkward (in general) so your poster will help them say 'no thank you' and help shop assistants feel good about asking.

It is useful for me to be made aware of environmental effort and progress down in Bath, Bristol, etc ... because here in central Scotland it is lagging far behind. So, my perspective may be a bit less knowledgeable than yours. Cannot wait to get back up to Orkney in two weeks!

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Malcolm Handoll
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Post: # 2194Post Chickenlady
Wed Apr 20, 2005 5:52 pm

I do still use plastic carriers as I am not very good at remembering to take a shopping bag with me into town or when I make an unplanned purchase. However, I do then reuse them. Not really good enough I know - I am trying to get better at this!

I have bought several of the big strong reusable bags from Sainsbury and Wilkinsons and they are brilliant. I think we need to put pressure on the big retailers not to offer free carrier bags. If the only option was your own reusable bag or the ones like the strong ones previously mentioned, I would soon remember to take my bags, and I am sure everybody else would too.

Paper bags are often not strong enough, and aren't really reusable either, although they are of course recyclable.

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Post: # 2195Post PlayingWithFire
Wed Apr 20, 2005 6:03 pm

As a 9 year old I was horrified when a cow next to our school got sick - we were all in trouble because the cow had eaten lots of crisp packets which we kids had dropped and then beenblown up against the wire fence.

We loved seeing the cows close up so the crisp packets were a good thing to us little kids - until the reality struck home. The farmer was furious - and I was upset. No matter that I never ate crisps - Iwas still partly to blame.

Anyhow - plastic bags. Often used but rarely needed.
However, if they are reused time and time again, that is big progress.
There is a bin for used bags outside my local store ... will it be ok to take bags from there?

And if people kept reusing them instead of disposing of rubbish - or worse still just throw them out - ...
Malcolm Handoll
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Post: # 2196Post Andy Hamilton
Wed Apr 20, 2005 6:29 pm

I also heard that a cow eats one ciggarette but its milk is bad for 3 months!

As far as the bags, I do on occasion end up using supermarket bags if I buy too much, or nip in for one thing that I think I can carry and endup with 10 other things. We are all human. If I am making a trip to buy definte things I will ensure that I have an ample supply of bags or a big enough rucksack.

If there is a recycle point for bags outside the shop then why not take them? They don't belong to anyone so you are not stealing. (although I could be wrong).

Fair point about the bags I think also if you had to pay 50p for every bag then you would soon remember to bring your own.
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Post: # 2199Post Andy Hamilton
Wed Apr 20, 2005 10:19 pm

Ok I got round to making a little document and got site cartoonist spence to draw the logo. If you can print this off and give it to as many shops that will participate that you can

http://selfsufficientish.com/bags.htm

Thank you.
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Post: # 2204Post Wombat
Thu Apr 21, 2005 2:29 am

Looks good!

Nev
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no response from politians

Post: # 2287Post Andy Hamilton
Mon Apr 25, 2005 12:40 am

so far have got from supermarkets

Dear Mr Hamilton,

Here is some information regarding our bio-degradeable carrier bags.

The world has been manufacturing plastics since the 1930's, but as less
than 5% of these materials have been incinerated, the rest are still
somewhere on the planet. No matter how many times we attempt to reuse
conventional plastic it does not go away. Nearly all (over 96%) of the 2.5
million tonnes the UK uses in household plastics every year ends up in
landfill, and it will be many decades before it begins to break down.

In 2001, 579,000 tonnes of plastics were used in the UK grocery industry,
of which two thirds could be identified as going direct to landfill. Less
than 2% of this total was recycled.

Most packaging can be recycled, some materials more easily than others.
However, taking all energy and material uses into account, recycling alone
is not always the only or perhaps even the best solution. For example, the
process of collecting, cleaning and reusing or recycling may use more
energy and other resources than starting from scratch with new materials.

Hygiene requirements often restrict the use of recycled paper and plastic
materials in direct contact with food (recycled glass and metal can be used
because the recycling process heats them to a high enough temperature to
ensure that no contamination is present in the recycled material).

Also, recycled packaging materials must be able to meet performance
standards, and protect the product, in the same way as virgin materials.

The Co-op is in favour of recycling, and encourages and helps to facilitate
the recycling of packaging used for Co-op Brand products, providing that it
saves resources, cuts pollution and is economic. Where space on pack
permits, Co-op Brand packaging is labelled to indicate which materials pack
components are made from, so helping consumers to recycle through normal
segregated recycling channels. For more information on this and other
recycling initiatives and options see www.co-op.co.uk Information Section,
Co-op Brand Packaging Recycling and 'Our Viewpoints' on 'Recycling' and
'Environmental Impact'.

To supplement this policy, the Co-op also encourages alternative
technologies including degradable and biodegradable plastic packaging.

The Co-op has started using degradable carrier bags in selected stores from
2nd September, 2002.
These give away carrier bags are made from oil-based polymers, but contain
a special additive which programmes the plastic to degrade within a
specified timescale. A number of factors can accelerate the degradation
process, such as sunlight, heat and stress, but once the degradation has
started, either before or after landfill, it will continue.

The Co-op is the first British grocery retailer to use degradable carrier
bags, which are supplied by Symphony Plastic Technologies and which uses
EPI's TDPA technology . These bags are 100% degradable, but are still as
strong as non-degradable carrier bags and can still be reused. The bags
will be date marked, and from the date of manufacture the plastic will
start to degrade in approximately 18 months time. The whole process will
take about 3 years, but the degradation process (started after 18 months)
may speed up if the bags are exposed to sunlight and/ or heat. For more
information visit www.degradable.net

The Co-op degradable carrier bag degrades completely, leaving only carbon
dioxide, water and a small amount of mineralisation compatible with soil.
The bags do not leave any toxic elements in the environment. Symphony's
d2w product (which uses EPI's TDPA technology) has been independently
tested by PIRA and has been tested as safe for direct food contact under EU
standards. In landfill situations, the bag will still degrade and therefore
help to reduce the amount of dangerous methane gas that can build up when
normal plastic bags stay intact with waste inside.

As the bags break down into smaller particles, they are degraded by natural
microbic activity. They do not need compost or any other form of biological
activity to breakdown, but if they are put on a compost heap* or similar
environment they will become biodegradable. (*Industrial compost is
typically maintained at above 55(superscript: o)C, any less than that, such
as in garden compost heaps, and sometimes even the likes of leaves and
grass cuttings won't break down.)

We recognise that this technology does not contribute to reducing the total
amount of plastic carrier bags used, but believe that until other ways of
positively encouraging consumers to use less plastics are implemented, this
new technology offers a step change that will help to reduce long-term
littering. It is estimated that the average life of a single give away
carrier bag is only 3 minutes before being discarded. Indeed, the UK
grocery industry use enough carrier bags to carpet the entire planet twice
a year ( source IGD) and according to Government figures, each person on
average uses 134 bags a year which in England is equivalent to 323 bags per
household.

We are also encouraging reuse of carrier bags(** see our top 5 tips for
reusing our bags) but if the bags do enter the plastics recycling stream
the heat generated during processing deactivates the special additive and
they can be safely recycled along with other similar plastics without
affecting the quality or integrity of the new product use.

We already offer a 'Bag for Life' to our customers but this route is not
the answer on its own, although a single 'Bag for Life' can save up to 35
giveaway carrier bags.

The use of degradable and biodegradable plastic packaging can help to
reduce the amount of waste going to Landfill, reduce greenhouse gases and
can also help reduce the amount of litter affecting wildlife and the
environment in general.

Since June 2002, Co-op Organic Oranges and Co-op Organic Onions have
utilised biodegradable netting. This form of plastic is starch based, made
from natural renewable materials derived from non-genetically modified
sources such as corn and potatoes. The biodegradable packaging can be
composted with normal household and garden waste and will decompose in
these conditions without adversely affecting the quality of the resulting
compost. The netting breaks down into carbon dioxide, water, mineral salts
and methane. Alternatively, the netting will disintegrate in the normal
waste treatment process.

By definition, biodegradable plastics require heat, moisture, and/ or
micro-organisms (in any combination) to degrade. The production and supply
of biodegradable packaging is limited at the moment but there are on going
developments in this area and we hope to extend usage as soon as possible
to other products in our range.

Our Top 5 tips for reusing our degradable carrier bags

1 - Keep a bundle in your bag and car and reuse them when shopping as many
times as possible - our number one priority!
2 - Use as waste bin liners at home - at least now they won't stay around
when they enter landfill.
3 - Use as pet 'poop' bags when walking the dog - the bag will eventually
degrade when put in the special containers.
4 - Use as garden waste bags which can be put straight on the compost heap
if filled with green waste.
5 - Use as planters for outdoor plants - wrap root balls of shrubs in a
degradable bag, make holes to allow water to move through then plant in the
soil. The plants will put roots through the plastic and the bag will
degrade in the soil.

Typical Questions & Answers

1 - Q - Is the degradable bag as strong as the normal non degradable bags?

A - yes it is, indeed the bags are the largest we supply to customers and
therefore hold the most shopping so have to be strong enough to do the job
well. All our bags are also subject to rigorous strength testing.

2 - Q - Why have you only converted some of your carrier bags to this
technology?

A - This is a new technology, and we are working with a new supplier to our
business so it makes sense to take the relationship forward at a measurable
pace.

3 - Q - Do the new bags cost more money?
A - No, the whole process of bag procurement is very competitive and any
new technology has to be cost effective to survive.

4 - Q - This new bag isn't actually going to stop people using plastic is
it?

A - No, but consumer usage of plastic carriers isn't going to change
overnight so we take the view that any positive step that reduces the long
term impact of plastic waste is a step forward in the right direction.( And
as most plastic eventually ends up in landfill, as this bag degrades even
in landfill, it will help reduce the build up of dangerous methane gases as
the bacteria needed to break waste down can get through degradable bags but
not conventional plastic bags.)

5 - Q - So how would this technology be affected by the introduction of a
carrier bag tax?
A - As far as we understand it, the government has yet to decide the route
and application a proposed tax would take but in general,
the Co-op would support any initiative that benefits the environment and of
course, if the tax isn't introduced for 3 years then the degradable bags
we're launching today won't be around then!

6 - Does the material leave trace elements in the soil and can it be used
to grow food in?
A - No, it doesn't leave trace elements in the soil, this relates to a
material that was tried on the market and withdrawn 8 years
ago. Indeed this technology is currently used by Organic growers as plastic
planters and Symphony have extensive research to prove that the product can
be used for the safe growing of food. The material totally degrades to
leave CO2, Water and mineralisation which is compatible with soil.

I hope that the above information is useful and of interest. Please visit
our website www.co-op.co.uk for more information about our viewpoints on
this and other environmental matters

Dennis Hilton
Customer Relations
the Co-operative Group
FREEPOST MR9473
Manchester
M4 8BA

Tel : - 0800 0686 727


and from the one that takes £1 in every £8 that we spend in the UK

Thank you for your email.

We understand your concerns regarding the use of bags and most of our stores have the facility to recycle these.

Stores currently return the carrier bags to an RSU (Recycling Service Unit). We have approx. 10 RSU's in the UK and all stores should be aware of them. Some of the common RSU's are at Hinckley and Chepstow. In Scotland the Recycling Unit is in Dundee.

The carrier bags are mixed with the rest of our plastic waste for recycling. This waste is shipped overseas where it is sorted, recycled into plastic pellets, then sold to plastic manufacturers to be made into other products.

However, T***o is now leading the way in 'green' shopping by gradually introducing fully degradable carrier bags in all our stores up and down the country.

This means that the waste will be sent to landfill sites, where the heat generated within these, will lead to disintegration of the degradable T***o bags within a few months. This is of added benefit when the bags are commonly used as bin-liners, since it allows the flow of air and water around food and garden waste. Effectively, this results in more rapid bio-degradation, than if it was enclosed in ordinary carrier bags.

I trust that this explanation answers your concerns.

If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact us at customer.service@T***o.co.uk quoting TES670707X.

Regards

Gayathri Devi
T***o Customer Service


and the other 'ethical' supermarket
Dear Mr Hamilton

Waitrose carrier bags are made from High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and they are fully recyclable. Waitrose routinely investigates alternative materials to ensure that its impact on the environment are kept to a minimum. Having thoroughly reviewed the environmental and commercial characteristics of biodegradable carrier bags Waitrose is firmly of the opinion that conventional virgin carrier bags are most suitable for the following reasons.

i) Waitrose is committed to reduce the overall number of carrier bags used in its shops, thus reducing resource use regardless of whether that resource is renewable. That is why we were the first supermarket to introduce the Bag for Life in 1997 which we believe can be reused on up to 20 occasions. This helps us to avoid using over 54 million conventional carrier bags each year. The bag when returned by our customers is replaced free and recycling into plaswood furniture.

ii) Since the introduction of the Packaging Waste Regulations in 1997, the UK Government and the packaging industry has invested hundreds of millions of pounds to increase packaging recycling levels. Recycling rates in the UK are now higher than ever (more than 60% of all packaging materials placed in the UK economy are now recycled), although material recycling in the UK is still considerably lower than in other European Member States. Waitrose is committed to support the recycling infrastructure in the UK to make material recycling even more economical and accessible. That is why we offer recycling facilities at all of our branches where we have space (currently approximately 60% of our branches have customer recycling facilities onsite), why we recycle cardboard and plastic at every branch, and why we always try to purchase recycled materials for our products (to stimulate and drive forward demand). Unfortunately biodegradable materials are not recyclable and we believe that the general public will not easily be able to differentiate between biodegradable and conventional materials. If mixed with recyclable plastics they will contaminate and invalidate the batch mix. Alternatively, if non biodegradable bags are incorrectly assumed to be biodegradable they will litter composting facilities. We believe that a single solution is simpler for everybody to understand and we believe that should be material recycling.

iii) Currently, industrial composting facilities are few and far between and until investment similar to that required to stimulate material recycling is in place biodegradable bags will continue to be disposed of as general waste. Here, when placed in landfill sites whey will not degrade efficiently (because of the anaerobic conditions), and they will release carbon dioxide (a powerful greenhouse gas) and contribute to global warming. In contrast, if a polymer based carrier bag is landfilled it will remain inert.

We will continue to review the best available technology on a regular basis and our immediate strategy remains to reduce overall carrier usage by offering and promoting the bag for life.

Regards,

Benjamin Dowsett


as for marks and sparks

Hello Andy,
Thanks for your enquiry.
I can tell you that we are working on biodegradable bags made from 100%
starch based material, GM free. These were trialled earlier this year in
some stores and are now being developed as a result of the feedback from
the trials.
We believe that if a tax is introduced it should cover all bags and not
just platic ones. The reason for this is we have seen in Ireland a move
from platic to paper bags which have their own negative impacts on the
environment. A tax on all bags could contribute to a reduction in the
use of shopping bags overall and this would have a positive effect on
the environment.
We also offer a range of re-usable bags including a re-usable plastic
carrier bag which contains re-cycled plastic.
I will certainly pass your comments onto our envronmental team regarding
signs. However, the carrier bags are displayed at all till points and it
is the customers choice if they wish to use them.
Regards
Anne Olsberg
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My best selling Homebrew book Booze for Free
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Post: # 2289Post Muddypause
Mon Apr 25, 2005 2:00 am

Well good for The Co-Op, I say. Leading the way, once again, in their quiet and unassuming way. An informative answer, though maybe not without its faults.

And boo-hiss to Waitrose for not trying hard enough and giving poor answers.

I'm quite surprised by Tescos, apparently embracing biodegradables so readily, but I suppose as market leader they wouldn't want to get left behind on this - afterall, 'green' is a poifitable marketing ploy.

And 6/10 for M&S - an encouraging start, but ending by blaming the customer is not the way to increase their market share.
Stew

Ignorance is essential

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Plastic Bags

Post: # 2294Post PlayingWithFire
Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:15 am

Well done Andy !

Self sufficiency isn't selfish.

Malcolm
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... spreading happiness in Orkney, Scotland, and beyond

in all things "leave it a little better than you find it"

Survival Skills ~ http://www.allfivesenses.com
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