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"Biodegradable" - Plastic Shopping Bags - Compostable Bags


Let's be honest..........NO Plastic IS biodegradable - Nor are "biodegradable" OXO Bags

The hype has been created the same way it was done with the "Green bags" Non Woven Polypropylene!

NON WOVEN Bags are a 100% South African Product - (Fabric and Bags are made in SA)

 

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WHY ARE OXO-BIODEGRADABLE ADDITIVES NOT A SUSTAINABLE OPTION?

 

Products made with additive technology and available on the market include film applications such as shopping bags, agricultural mulch films and, most recently, certain plastic bottles. They claim to be “degradable”, “oxo-degradable”, “oxo-biodegradable”’ or “oxofragmentable”’ and sometimes even “compostable”, without providing any sort of proof for the claims made.
Expert opinion
Experts from the plastics industry, waste management, and environmental fraternity voice serious concerns about these products. Oxo-biodegradable products cannot claim compostability or biodegradability. If they break down into small pieces, the plastic debris accumulates in the environment and the potential for ingestion by animals increases. It is therefore crucial that any environmental claims are backed by sound science and research. These products are made from conventional plastics and supplemented with specific additives in order to mimic biodegradation. In truth, however, these additives only facilitate a fragmentation of the materials, which do not fully degrade but break down into very small fragments that remain in the environment - a process that would be more accurately described by the term “oxo-fragmentation”. A self-imposed standard for oxo-degradation merely sets out the parameters on how to test the degradation process, not the results or even criteria for passing the test of degradation. There is currently no internationally established and acknowledged standard or certification process that proves the success of oxodegradation. If these additives fragmentable plastics are littered and end up in the landscape or even the ocean they start to disintegrate due to the effect of the additives that trigger the breakdown into fragments, which remain in the environment. Plastics|SA advocates a more responsible and sustainable solution for waste management.

AS the use of and publicity around degradable plastics increases, so does the confusion surrounding the environmental claims put forward.
As a result of insufficient or incorrect information, consumers often base their decisions on foreign, poorly researched or emotional articles.
Simply stated oxo-biodegradable plastics are conventional polyolefin plastics to which small amounts of metal salts have been added to catalyse the degradation process.
Oxo-biodegradable suppliers claim that the recycling of packaging film is not viable and that the switch to oxo-biodegradable packaging is the ultimate solution. Although it sounds like a solution, it creates more problems for the recycling industry and the environment.

It is therefore precarious to advertise oxo-biodegradability when the product has no testing data to validate claims that it degrades in a landfill or compost facility according to the widely accepted international standards for biodegradability (e.g. EN 13432).
Products made with additive technology and available on the market include film applications such as shopping bags, agricultural mulch films and, most recently, certain plastic bottles.
They claim to be “degradable”, “oxo-degradable”, “oxo-biodegradable”’ or “oxofragmentable”’ and sometimes even “compostable”, without providing any sort of proof for the claims made.
Experts from the plastics industry, waste management, and environmental fraternity voice serious concerns about these products.
Oxo-biodegradable products cannot claim compostability or biodegradability. If they break down into small pieces, the plastic debris accumulates in the environment and the potential for ingestion by animals increases. It is therefore crucial that any environmental claims are backed by sound science and research.
These products are made from conventional plastics and supplemented with specific additives in order to mimic biodegradation. In truth, however, these additives only facilitate a fragmentation of the materials, which do not fully degrade but break down into very small fragments that remain in the environment - a process that would be more accurately described by the term “oxo-fragmentation”.
A self-imposed standard for oxo-degradation merely sets out the parameters on how to test the degradation process, not the results or even criteria for passing the test of degradation. There is currently no internationally established and acknowledged standard or certification process that proves the success of oxodegradation.
If these additives fragmentable plastics are littered and end up in the landscape or even the ocean they start to disintegrate due to the effect of the additives that trigger the breakdown into fragments, which remain in the environment.
The use of oxo-biodegradable additives to solve environmental problems is a quick fix solution not a sustainable solution.
Local solutions to litter and consumer behaviour should be sought and all South Africans should embrace the strong and viable recycling industry by designing plastic products and packaging with recycling in mind.
This will continue to provide jobs and keep our natural resources in circulation.

written and published by

Anton Hanekom is Executive Director, Plastics SA

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When Pick N Pay introduced their compostable shopping bags in July 2018, Social Media exploded with praise for the retail giant.  Rrequests for bags like this started pouring in.  And it’s great getting rid of Plastic is great! BUT.........is realy great good and wholesome!

While any movement away from plastic is good, we do need to ask ourselves whether this is the best solution to our plastic bag problem. 

The Pros

Conventional plastic shopping bags are made from fossil fuels.  Fossil fuels are a finite resource, so a big no-no where sustainability is concerned.  Compostable shopping bags on the other hand, are made from vegetable matter like maize and potato starch.  So as far as pre-life benefits go, compostable bags get

The Bags are home compostable (according to Pick N Pay, let's assume it is the truth) and will break down under the RIGHT conditions.

The Cons

Firstly, how many people are actually going to compost the bags?  Some will, probably the minority. Most bags will end up in a landfill.  Which leads us to the next problem.

If you didn’t know, landfills are NOT designed to break down waste, only store it according to  Livescience.com.  The lack of oxygen in landfill is the main reason for this. Very little waste will break down in landfill as archaeologist William L Rathje has found out.  After digging deeper into the layers, he has found perfectly preserved hotdogs next to a newspaper dated 1965!

Items that do start to break down, degrade very slowly and the lack of oxygen results in the bacteria producing methane gas – highly flammable and dangerous when collected underground. 

BOTTOM LINE: compostable bags will not break down in a landfill, they will add to the existing waste crisis the world is experiencing !

Another problem to consider, is that the bags might give people a false sense of security.  Touting them as the solution to our plastic bag (also known as SA's National Flower) problem, it can steer ill-informed customers away from the most environmentally friendly solution we have – reusable bags. After all, who wants to lug around reusable shopping bags when you can just get affordable compostable ones at the till?

Conclusion

It’s very important to note that in many cases, biodegradable alternatives to single-use items are the best solutions.  Take restaurants as an example.  Restaurants do need single-use takeaway containers.  In this case, Bagasse (sugar cane) containers serve as the best alternative to polystyrene containers. 

And what about food trucks and festivals?  Again, in this case, biodegradable Bagasse packaging is probably the best solution.

There are places and occasions when compostable and biodegradable single-use items are the most practical and realistic solution!

When it comes to shopping bags, the setting is very different.  Purchasing your own reusable shopping bags and taking them with makes sense on every level!

Do compostable shopping bags beat plastic bags? 

Written by - Surika van Schalkwyk

In what seems to be an environmental breakthrough, Tiger Brands’s biggest user of packaging, Albany Bakeries, launched biodegradable plastic bread bags for its entire range three months ago, involving 3 000 tonnes of plastic in annual production.

But the Plastics Federation of South Africa (PFSA) fears that replacing the 500-million plastic bags that Albany produces a year with biodegradable bags can have a crippling effect on the R3-billion plastics recycling industry.

Biodegradable plastic is designed to break down and decompose. But critics say there is no such thing, and that at best it can be expected to decompose partly.

The plastic industry does not dispute the proposed environmental benefits of biodegradable bags, but says that biodegradable plastic could destroy a valuable resource used by 160 companies employing thousands of people. The industry says it recycles about 175 000 tonnes of plastic each year.

According to Albany’s senior brand manager, Khanyi Dhlamini, 10,5-million South African households consume Albany bread each week. 
“We manufacture a lot of plastic for packaging each year. Our main reason for the initiative is to do something good for the environment and to eliminate our carbon footprint. We want to ensure that wherever this plastic lands it will not pollute the environment.”

Dhlamini said that the plastic fully decays within a year to 18 months.

Albany did not want to comment on the possible effect of these biodegradable bags on the recycling industry. “We are in contact with many stakeholders in the plastics industry and we are solving the problem internally,” it said.

David Hughes, executive director of the Plastic Federation of South Africa, said it is a scientific fact that oxo-biodegradable products contaminate the country’s coal- and petroleum-based plastic polymers in the recycle stream because normal plastics cannot be mixed with other plastics. He said this is particularly the case where there are post-consumer waste collection schemes, which rely on the consumer separating out recyclables.

“Oxo-biodegradable additive is essentially being sold on environmental reasons incorporating two major components: that any such plastic product left lying around as litter will then degrade and cease to be a nuisance.

“This is particularly applicable in countries that have no recycling industry. Second, that such plastic will degrade in the landfill and reduce the volume in the landfill.”

Hughes said the plastics federation disputed this because once buried, the plastic product becomes mummified and stops degrading.

He said that in any event the percentage of plastic in landfill is small, “dwarfed by other discarded materials”.

“There is no such thing as biodegradable plastic,” said Mabule Mokhine, Johannesburg branch coordinator of the environmental lobby group Earthlife Africa.

Mokhine said that one cannot change the chemical composition of the substance with an additive. “The best you can do is to enhance the plastic to break up into smaller pieces. But it will still be plastic and it will still harm the environment.”

Hughes argued that there are a variety of products made to oxo-biodegrade, such as medical products, garbage bags and medical sutures. “Our argument has little to do with disputing environmental aspects. The primary focus of global environmental efforts is the reuse and recycling of plastics, so it makes no sense to deliberately destroy a valuable resource.”

Ulrich Martin, chairperson of the South African Plastic Recycling Organisation (Sapro), said the true effect that biodegradable bread bags will have on the industry will be seen only two years from now.

“When lower-quality recycled products such as underground pipes and damp-proof wall coverings enter the markets in future, recyclers will struggle to sell their product. The impact can be devastating,” he said.

One major recycler used to process more than 40 tonnes a month prior to Albany launching its new product, but now refuses to take this material for fear that it will “contaminate” its other waste inputs and will result in its recycled polymer failing in subsequent applications after re-conversion.

“If the informal and formal plastic waste collectors come to know that certain plastics—like the oxo-biodegradable packaging—will not be purchased by the recyclers, then such material will have no value and will be discarded and that’s environmentally unacceptable. Job creation may well be affected negatively as well,” said Hughes.

Martin said that Albany made the decision on using biodegradable bread bags based on the assumption that South Africa does not recycle bread bags. “South Africa is a world leader in the recycling of plastic. We recycle 28% of the 900 000 tonnes of plastic manufactured in the country per year.”

According to him, Sapro worked for years to build confidence in the technical integrity of recycled material and to demonstrate its ability to perform as a viable alternative to virgin plastics. “This product can place our integrity under threat.”

A request by Sapro made to Albany to withdraw the product from the market temporarily until scientific trials could prove the risks for the recycling industry was denied.

George Fee, South African representative of the British additive manufacturer Symphony Plastics, the suppliers of biodegradable bread bags to Albany Bakeries, said that PFSA and Sapro have no evidence to say that the quality of recycled products will be compromised.

“Our products are used in 52 countries. We supply oxo-biodegradable products to companies such as Wall-Mart and the Tesco chain stores in Europe,” he said, adding that the quality of recycled products is not compromised if biodegradable additives enter the recycling stream.

“Stabiliser is added before new products are produced from recycled plastic. The militant structure of any recycled plastic is destroyed anyway. Companies in the South African recycling industry are basing their assumptions on incorrect information.”

But according to Hughes, the process is not that simple: “The percentage of oxo-biodegradable plastic in a bale mix of all polymers is significant from the point of view of having to add process stabilisers. If the mix is not known—which will usually be the case—then problems may arise further on in the re-converter product.”

He said the recycling companies have been given information about what to do, what stabilisers to add and how the additive passivation process works, but some of it is confusing and unreliable: “The industry now needs an instruction booklet on precisely what to do and it is not available.”

Various stakeholders in the plastics industry have formed a corporation called the Biodegradable Action Group, which will investigate the effect of Albany’s biodegradable bread bags on the plastic industry.

Tiger Brands/Albany and the Plastics Federation, with Sapro and the Plastics Converters’ Association, are planning to do combined scientific trials to prove one way or the other what risks are involved and whether it is safe to continue to have oxo-biodegradable polymers in the recycle stream.

“Albany is obviously entitled to take a different view and be a leader,” said Teigue Payne, publisher of Food & Beverage Reporter. But, according to Payne, Albany is not welcoming a public debate on the matter.

“What is needed is an open, public debate before anyone else opts for this technology,” he said.


If you want a true biodegradable bag, you need to use/purchase a bag made from natural renewable fibers, such as

Cotton - Hessian Jute Burlap or Paper

The best you can do for the environment - and reduce carbon footprints - is, buying a

BAG for LIFE !

Buy - Gift Favour Party Event Festival Shopping Travel Sports Bags - made from suitable fabric to ensure practicality and durability.

Besides all, most man made fabrics can be recycled!

If Natural Biodegradable Fiber Bags are not practical / suitable - make sure the intended user

is aware that the bags you are selling / using / handing out / giving away must be.......Recyclable Bags

We gladly incorporate the illustrated stamp into your print design / or stitch a customized label onto bags you purchase from us!


Truly Eco friendly and Biodegradable bags:

Paper Bags

We print with EU certified - eco friendly - biodegradable - ink !


It is simply (sadly) no longer practical nor affordable to not use every day products that are not eco friendly.

But we all can educate ourselves and chose least environmentally harmful products, re-use / re-purpose and recycle as much as we possibly can!


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