Plastic bags a distraction from bigger green issues
The acknowledgement from the Environment Agency this week that thin plastic carrier bags have the lowest carbon footprint of any type of bag is welcome recognition that they are not the great environmental evil they are sometimes portrayed as.
The report, Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags, also shows that a cotton shopping bag has to be re-used at least 131 times to have less environmental impact than a single-use plastic bag.
Working with customers, retailers virtually halved bag use between 2006 and 2010. But, reacting to the report, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) says the continuing focus on plastic bags is a damaging distraction from more important environmental issues.
British Retail Consortium Sustainability Director Andrew Opie said: "We're pleased to see the Environment Agency's report acknowledges single-use carrier bags can have less impact than the alternatives. Yes, the plastic bag has become symbolic but this report confirms it is not the great environmental evil some would have us believe.
"Agonising over bags misses the point. There are much bigger targets supermarkets are helping customers to work on, such as reducing food waste. To obsess over bags distracts consumers from making bigger changes to their habits which would do more to benefit the environment.
"Retailers and customers cut bag use by 4.6 billion a year between 2006 and 2010, despite sales increasing during the same period. Handing out bags-for-life and encouraging customers to re-use them is a big part of that. Efforts to cut down bag use will continue but they must not be the only focus."
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