Plastic debris is now found everywhere, from the Arctic to Antarctica. It clogs our drains, litters national parks, and piles up to add to the problems faced by the environment.
Despite the visible threat that plastic poses to our natural habitat, we continue using the harmful material with great confidence. It is because of our fondness for plastics that the World’s oceans are becoming a dumping ground for such materials.
The result is that thousands of species die as a result of the increasing use of plastics. Researchers have shown that plastic bags are found in the guts of 90% of the World’s sea birds!
Humans have been ignorant for too long perhaps and it is time that we change our course of action if we want a safer future. Our sustainable actions could directly impact nature, enabling us to build a better ecosystem for all the other species which reside on planet Earth. The pertinent question is what actually needs to be done?
First and foremost we need to discover and shift to alternate options. Find out what other materials could we use apart from plastic bags, research upon them, and incorporate them into our daily lives. To make it a bit easier for all of you here are some viable options which could help you gauge which option is more suitable for you.
Water Soluble Bags
As environmental consciousness among people begins to increase, they are now more actively looking towards sustainable solutions especially when it comes to using plastic bags. What remains to be one of the most effective options is the water-soluble bag.
These bags are made of modified polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), and some other water-soluble additives. These materials are environmentally friendly materials with water solubility and biodegradable properties. The biggest advantage of these bags is that no toxic or harmful material is used in their manufacturing; this makes them highly safe to use.
A water-soluble bag gives a lot of additional benefits as well, apart from being biodegradable, a water-soluble bag has anti-static characteristics, it is resistant to UV rays and even resistant to oil, gases, and grease.
Thus, it’s a perfect fit for the packaging of cement, fertilizers, liquid detergents, and chemicals. A wide range of household and industrial materials can be packaged using these water-soluble bags.
The disposal of these bags is very convenient. All bags can be dissolved in stirring hot water in less than 5 minutes.
If one doesn’t want to dissolve them then they can be thrown away directly and can be decomposed by morning dew, rain or seawater without classification. Just imagine getting rid of a bag without any pollutant residue, doesn’t that sound satisfying!
Although the challenge of these bags is expensive of raw material costs. But the cost of disposal of these bags is literally zero. A water-soluble bag may seem to be an expensive option in the beginning but its long-term impact is much higher than the initial cost. Do you remember when solar panels were introduced in the market, everyone was apprehensive about the cost but soon people found out that it is a wise investment. Water-soluble bags will perhaps adopt the same path; in the next few years, we can expect them to be the next big thing.
Plastic bags have a bad reputation and that is because of obvious reasons, it takes centuries for a plastic bag to decompose and it cannot be recycled. On the contrary, it is super convenient to recycle a paper bag, in fact, most of the paper bags contain 35% of recycled material. You can even tear paper bags and add them to your compost pile!
However, research has revealed that manufacturing paper bags can emit 80% more greenhouse gases which ultimately contribute to global warming. Not only does the production of paper bags lead to higher water usage but it inevitably is a threat for trees too. The more you use paper bags, the more trees could be harmed so you can’t tag it as the best choice perhaps.
Even the disposal of these bags is a bit tricky; some researches have proven that paper bags produce 80% more solid waste because they don’t degrade very quickly.
Reusable plastic bags
A majority of the reusable plastic bags available in the market today are made of postindustrial content or recycled materials. The biggest advantage of these bags is that they can be used again and again. Some manufacturers claim reusable bags can be reused up to 125 times, which is a staggeringly high number. These bags have a minimum impact on the environment if they are used multiple times.
The problem is that unfortunately, customers don’t use these bags enough and often forget to bring them along. They use a new plastic bag every time which in turn is more harmful to the environment. Most of the reusable bags are disposed of before life ending time; this only adds up to the plastic litter and proves to be counterproductive. These bags are disposed of at recycling facilities or special drop-off locations such as the grocery store that can make effective use of such products.
Cotton bags are also a great alternative; they are much more sustainable and cleaner than plastic or reusable bags. The primary material which is used to make this bag is cotton, it is a natural fiber thus the bags can be washed easily with detergent and you can get rid of any bacteria which might lie on its surface.
But cotton is a water intensive crop. If cotton is grown inorganically, it means need more pesticides. Abuse of insecticides not only kill beneficial insects, but also lead to ecological imbalance.
The ideal way to dispose of cotton bags is to incinerate or burn them when they reach the end of their life.
Non-woven polypropylene bags
Non-woven polypropylene bags can make from oil or recycled plastic.
These bags are durable and strong which means they can be reused multiple times.
One major disadvantage for the consumer is that these bags cannot be washed like other fabric bags. If washed again and again these bags can easily split into pieces and might be of no use. Also, these bags have the risk of health when reusing them.
These bags can be recycled. But not all the consumers have a sense of recycling, so it means it will cause the same result of the plastic bags.
Non-woven water-soluble bags are made of sheets of PVA fabric which are bonded together thermally or chemically. These bags are eco-friendly and biodegradable therefore have no harmful impact on the environment. These bags can also be washed again and again making them safe to use.
In comparison to water-soluble bags, their durability and strength are more therefore these bags can carry heavy material. It will not affect the strength when contact with cold water. Once you are done using them these bags can dissolve in hot water for 3 to 5 minutes after which they will breakdown. They leave no chemical or harmful material and can be easily disposed of in regular garbage later on.
If you want to carry some heavy metallic stuff or wet products then water-soluble nonwoven bags could be a better option.
Compostable shopping bags are exactly what their name suggests, shopping bags that are compostable. These bags are usually made of cellulose, sugarcane, or corn and because they are made from natural agricultural products. But at present, there are still many countries in the food crisis, we need to analyze whether to use this food to supply people in need or to make bags?
As we all know, these bags need a compostable facility to degrade, so it means that we cannot break down at home. And some news reported that if these compostable bags be buried in a landfill, they are still intact after 3 years. So after using these bags, we need to find commercial compost facilities, but it’s not easy to find one, or it’s far away from you is a big problem.
Jute bags are an environmentally friendly option that is made from a naturally renewable resource. It breaks down into organic materials. They have great antistatic properties, and cheap in the market But they are drape property is not good enough, If jute bag is wetted it loses its strength.
Jute bags also need a compostable facility to break down like compostable bags.
So after reviewing so many environment-friendly options and weighing their pros and cons what shall be the final verdict? Well, if one really wants to have something sustainable, high quality, and reliable then water-soluble bags are your best buy. They can be used for a long time without hurting the environment in any way! It is ideal for a variety of diverse applications, including shopping bags and retail packaging such as clothes, shoes, laundry bags, etc.