Wise Use & Benefits
The industry believes that plastic shopping bags are a valuable resource that should not be thrown away. Used primarily as carry-out bags, they provide a safe, convenient and hygienic way to transport our groceries. And they can be reused in many ways and then recycled into other products.
The Canadian plastics industry strongly supports the diversion and recovery of all plastic shopping bags from the waste stream and will work with government, retailers and users to make that happen … to ensure that this valuable resource is used wisely, for everything it's worth.
The goal is to make every effort to keep as many plastic shopping bags as possible out of landfill. The industry is:
- working with retailers to promote the proper packing and use of bags;
- working with municipalities to expand curbside recycling of plastic shopping bags;
- helping to develop viable markets for recycled plastic bags; and
- educating consumers about reuse and recycling.
There are many advantages that plastic shopping bags bring to the table.
Strong, efficient carriers
Lightweight, but strong, plastic shopping bags do the heavy lifting. For those who want a lighter carry bag, they are a perfect option.
A more sanitary choice
Because plastic shopping bags are a first use option for groceries at checkout, they provide a healthier, more sanitary option free of bacterial build up and the risk of cross-contamination of food. (See Health Canada, Plastic Shopping Bags)
Plastic shopping bags have many uses. A government study in the United Kingdom showed that four out of five people reuse their plastic shopping bags as: liners for household wastebaskets, storage, book and lunch bags, and to pick up after pets.
In Canada, independent waste audits show that 50-60% of all plastic shopping bags are reused to contain waste.
Can you think of all the different ways that you have used plastic shopping bags over the years?
Plastic shopping bags are one of the most energy-efficient bag materials produced today.
Reducing the amount of resin material used in each bag, called “lightweighting”, has been an industry practice for many years now. Today’s plastic bags use 75 per cent less resin than 20 years ago and 63 per cent less energy in their manufacture, while maintaining the same strength and durability. Not many other products can make this claim.
Reduce food wastage
Plastic film and bags protect our food from external contaminants, like germs and bacteria, and help keep our food fresh. Plastics are one of the simplest forms of protective packaging and play an important role in our ability to reduce food wastage to around three per cent, compared with 50 per cent in less-developed countries. (A study by Columbia University established a direct correlation between increased use of plastic packaging and reduced wastage of food.)
Plastic shopping bags are a perfect candidate for recycling and can be made into a wide range of products. Some products made from recycled plastic shopping bags include new bags and other durable products such as plastic lumber for decking, park benches, picnic tables and waste receptacles. Whole new product categories are emerging using recycled plastic shopping bags, such as the composite lumber market which is growing at a rate of 14 per cent per year and is expected to be worth $1.4 billion U.S. by 2007.
A 2x6 composite board that is 16 feet long uses approximately 2,250 plastic bags.
In Canada, 44 per cent of the population has access to plastic bag recycling through curbside recycling programs, drop-off depots, or at-store bag take-back programs.