When you hear the words ‘degradable’ and ‘biodegradable’ you probably think “oh, what an environmentally-conscious option!”
I know, me too.
Thanks to artful marketing and thoughtful sentence construction, many people are led to believe that they were helping the planet by using these types of bags.
Often, these words are also used interchangeably, but did you know that they’re actually two completely different things?
How are they Harmful?
When plastic bags start to break down, regardless of their materials, they create smaller pieces of plastic.
These pieces are called microplastics and they can be extremely harmful for our environment.
Microplastics can become ingested by smaller animals (e.g. fish) and can eventually move up the food chain to human stomachs.
All biodegradable bags are degradable, but not all degradable bags are biodegradable. So how do we tell them apart?
What’s the Difference?
Degradable plastics decompose with the help of chemical additives.
There are no living organisms in the breakdown process as these plastics are petroleum based.
They are actually considered to be equally as destructive to the environment as regular polyethylene plastic bags.
Biodegradable plastics are made from traditional petrochemicals. These are engineered to break down more quickly.
However, in order for these bags to be broken down, there are two requirements: a minimum temperature of 50°C and exposure to UV light.
Neither of these plastics can be recycled and there is no set time frame in terms of disintegration.
Why should we change?
Ironically, humans created plastic and now our planet is covered in it, harming our surroundings.Less than a fifth of all plastic is recycled (according to National Geographic Magazine), so what happens with the rest?
Since plastic takes a long time to break down, it would last for multiple centuries.
As mentioned above, they break down into microplastics which can get into our systems and poison us.
Plastic not only harms humans, but kills marine life, up to an estimated 100,000 animals annually (click to see many other facts about single-use plastics bags).
Just because something says ‘biodegradable’ doesn’t mean you should litter under any circumstances.
Be mindful of where you place plastic once you’re finished using it.
Check to see if it’s recyclable. If it isn’t, ensure that it’s securely placed in a garbage receptacle
How do we Combat the Plastic Problem?
BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag.
Simply put: invest in a cotton, hemp, bamboo or non-woven bag.
These bags last for years, are more durable and are a much more eco-friendly solution.
There are so many options in terms of reusable bags available these days, it’s a wonder why plastic bags are still in circulation.
In most cases, you don’t even have to purchase your own bag as a lot of [retail] companies are offering them as their default shopping bags.
Some tips to follow:
- don’t throw out your reusable shopping bags
- keep a few bags in your car or purse in case you run into a grocery store
- if you’re transporting bulkier items, maybe just forgo a bag entirely
- repurpose plastic bags in any way that you can before throwing them out
- If your store offers cardboard boxes (often leftover from stock), choose to place your items in these
And remember, companies – reusable bags are a convenient way to garner some advertising and to reach a wider audience!
Visit our website for more information on the different types of reusable bags we have available.