Oxo-biodegradable bags – response to the Queen's speech

Oxo-biodegradable bags – the answer to the blight of discarded plastic bags

The government has confirmed in the Queen’s Speech today that it will introduce a charge on all plastic carrier bags given away by the major retailers in England from October 2015 saying that this is necessary in order to address the blight of discarded plastic bags in our towns and countryside.

The government however still believes that even with the reduction of plastic bags that the 5p charge is expected to cause there will still be a lot of bags in circulation and therefore it wants to create a situation so that where bags are used they are better by being biodegradable rather than simply single-use plastic bags.

Today’s Queen’s Speech still leaves open the possible exemption from the charge for biodegradable bags provided that a genuinely biodegradable bag that meets defined criteria can be defined.

Wells Plastics has been manufacturing additives for the plastics industry in the UK for 30 years and say that such a bag is already available in the form of an oxo-biodegradable bag since this is designed specifically to address the issue of plastic waste that gets into the environment and cannot be realistically collected. We therefore would like to ask Defra to give further consideration to what constitutes the IDEAL BAG and look very closely at how an oxo-biodegradable bag can meet these criteria.

The Queen’s Speech also mentions that paper bags will be exempted from the new charge and seems to suggest that somehow these are more environmentally friendly than plastic bags. In fact all the evidence points to the opposite since the process of manufacturing paper bags uses far more energy than plastic as well as huge amounts of water. A stack of 1,000 new plastic carrier bags would be around 2 inches high, but a stack of 1,000 new paper grocery bags could be around 2 feet high. It would take at least seven times the number of trucks to deliver the same number of bags, creating seven times more transport pollution and road congestion. Also, because paper bags are not as strong as plastic, people may use two or three bags inside each other. Paper bags cannot normally be re-used, and will disintegrate if wet. A Life Cycle Analysis conducted by Intertek for the UK Environment Agency in 2012 showed that plastic shopping bags have better environmental credentials than paper, cotton or bio-based plastic.

“We would really recommend that Defra consider the facts regarding oxo-biodegradable bags further since we believe that they could offer a major contribution to solving this problem” said Wells Plastics Sales & Marketing Director, Carl Birch. He added that “we would be very pleased to have further discussions with Defra and invite them to meet with us very soon”.