Plastic bag industry criticises UN call for plastic bag ban - comment update
The United Nations Environment Programme has come under criticism from the plastic bag industry after calling for a world-wide ban on thin film plastic bags.
Responding to the results of a UN report assessing marine litter, UN under secretary and UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said: “Some of the litter, like thin film single use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased-out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere.”
At a conference of degradable plastics distributors held by degradable plastics manufacturer Symphony Environmental, the industry believed the ban demonstrated a lack of understanding of modern plastics technology.
Chairman of the British Standards Institute Panel on Biodegradability of Plastics said: “If the plastic waste in the Pacific Garbage Patch had been d2w plastic, most of it would have degraded before it arrived leaving no harmful residues.”
The UNEP report, Marine litter: a global challenge is the ‘first attempt’ to take stock of the extent of marine litter. It concludes that 46.8 per cent of wildlife debris entanglements in 2007 were due to disregarded fishing lines. However, plastic and paper bags were the second most frequent marine debris items found globally between 1989 and 2007 with 9.4 per cent. Cigarette butts were the number one marine debris constituting 24.6 per cent.
Carrier Bag Consortium head of communications Peter Woodall said: “The report states that plastic bags are not the biggest problem for marine debris by a long way. Plastic bags are very useful containers and can be recycled. Government statistics show that 80 per cent of all households reuse plastic bags to ensure their waste is hygienically tied up and plastics reprocessing is a very good use of resources as it is endlessly recyclable. ”
Woodall cited the research carried out in Scotland, which found that if carrier bags were taxed retailers would supply paper bags. These bags were much less likely to be reused due to the bags soaking up water, unlike the plastic variety.
He added: “Biodegradable bags break the first rule of sustainability, as it is a product that is made to go to waste. It allows people to think they can leave their bags lying in the hedgerow because it will degrade eventually.”