The emergence and increasing availability of compostable plastic bags, as stimulated by legislative policy in some countries like France and Italy, has borne a new identity for this traditionally single use item. The tables are turning on the stigmatized image of the humble plastic bag, as compostable alternatives bring a new lease of life to plastic bags and how best to use and dispose of them.
Plastic bags serve a valuable purpose around the globe, every day. They are a common form of packaging and just a few grams of plastic are needed for safely containing and transporting goods such as foods, produce, powders, ice, and magazines. However, in the United States alone some 100 billion plastic bags are thrown away each year, which in turn require 12 million barrels of oil per year to manufacture. In the EU, meanwhile, citizens use an average of 198 plastic bags per year1.
Misuse of plastic bags - for example by littering or excessive use - has harmed the image of this useful product and challenged its future in Europe. Governments and regulators are becoming increasingly anxious about their effects on the planet. This has resulted in some countries introducing legislative action to encourage plastics producers and bag manufacturers to employ smarter solutions with an improved ecological profile.
Closing the loop: A biobased beginning, a return back to nature
Carrier bags made from bioplastics are a valuable alternative to conventional fossil-oil based bags; and PLA-based compounds in particular are an excellent material for single-use shopping bags with a lower carbon footprint than the traditional oil-based version.
Furthermore, in countries where organic 'biowaste' is collected (such as your household organic waste), shopping bags that are compostable in accordance with EN13432 can be used to collect that waste - in effect making it a dual use bag. Studies2 have shown that compostable biowaste bags help to increase the amount of biowaste collected, which not only diverts this from landfills, but also contributes towards improving the quality of compost.
Dual use also reduces the number of bags that are littered or end up in landfills: Only 0.17% of single-use biodegradable bags are littered –compared to 6.7% of single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags3.
Once composted in an industrial composting facility (which employs specific elevated humidity and temperature levels), the certified compostable plastic bag, together with the nutrient-rich organic household waste it contains, gets returned to nature in the form of water, CO2 and soil compost - which can then be used as a fertilizer.
This fertilizer aids the growth of new plants (future raw materials) and effectively ‘closes the loop’: harnessing the value of nature's materials whilst eliminating the concept of waste.
Corbion's PLA resins certified compostable
Our PLA resin has been officially certified as compostable by European certification organization Vinçotte. In fact these PLA resins have been awarded the OK Compost logo4 as well as the European Bioplastics Association's Seedling logo. Quite simply, these certifications enable our customers and partners further down the supply chain to develop compostable end-products based on a reliable and certified PLA resin foundation.
The humble plastic is indeed truly changing.
1 European Commission: Assessment of impacts of options to reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags. Croatia was not yet included in this assessment
2 BASF: http://www.basf.com/group/pressemitteilungen/P-12-179
3 Commission Staff Working Document: Impact Assessment for a Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags, table 3, p. 15.
4 Products or packaging featuring the OK compost label are certified by Vinçotte as biodegradable in an industrial composting plant. The sole reference point for the certification program is the harmonized EN 13432: 2000 standard, which adheres to the requirements of the EU Packaging Directive ( 94/62/EEC) http://www.okcompost.be/en/recognising-ok-environment-logos/ok-compost-amp-ok-compost-home/