Published On: Mon, Dec 7th, 2015

Arizona Grocers & Retailers Defend Plastic Bags

It is no surprise that grocers, retailers and restauranteurs in Arizona are fighting to preserve the right to send their customers home with a plastic bag. Despite the rhetoric from environmental groups and the legislature, there is nothing to replace them when it comes to taking groceries home and protecting food and other goods from damage and contamination.

Lightweight plastic bags are the most inexpensive, convenient and cost-effective product for the job. Life cycle assessments published over the last few years put the environmental credentials of lightweight plastic shopping bags ahead of paper, cotton and compostable plastic, when water resources, land use, energy and emissions are taken into account.

Plastic bags are made from a by-product of oil refining which used to be wasted, so the same amount of oil would still be extracted if plastic did not exist. The strongest argument against plastic bags is their longevity. Conventional plastic bags can last for many decades, so plastic accumulates in the environment and thus politicians feel under pressure to act:

The good news is that there is no need to ban or tax plastic bags because they can now be made with degradable plastic technology. Controlled-life plastic can be manufactured with a pre-determined lifespan. At the end of its useful life it will change into a non-toxic, biodegradable material, which is bio-assimilated into the environment by bacteria and fungi in the same way as a leaf, only quicker, and leaving nothing behind. No toxic residues or fragments of plastic.

Better still, it can be made using existing machinery and workforce at little or no extra cost, and if collected during its useful life can be recycled into similar products without the need for segregation. However, if it does escape collection and ends up in the open environment it will disappear in months, rather than decades, and will not be able to accumulate in the way that conventional plastic does now.

What is baffling is that controlled-life plastic technology has been available in the US for over ten years and yet retailers have been painfully slow to adopt it. The reason for this is a mystery because it would allow them to keep using the best product for job, whilst addressing the environmental concerns of their customers and critics.

Countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle-East have already passed laws requiring plastic bags and packaging to be made with Controlled-life technology because it works, – perhaps it’s time that all the US States did the same.