This post is also available in: Spanish
Say no to plastic bags
Join the growing campaign to end the use of the ubiquitous plastic bag. Over 3 billion a day are used in China, many countries have banned them and there is increasing awareness how very bad they are. Plastic bags have become a part of our daily lives mainly because we are given them free wherever we shop. However the real price we are paying is much higher than we think. Not only are they damaging the environment, the production of plastic bags has implications for our health, a hidden but very high price to pay for something we can so easily replace. Here at La Chispa we are changing to reusable bags, you can too.
In Spain it is estimated that we use 238 plastic bags each annually. That’s 10.5 million bags a year or the equivalent of 100 thousand tons of rubbish. Their production emits toxic substances such as PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and uses additives such as stablisers, antioxidants and colourants, all of which are dangerous to the environment and our health.
Here in Spain only 10% of plastic bags are recycled. The rest end up in landfill, burn in incinerators or littering the countryside. Burning plastic bags creates yet more pollution. And those that end up as litter… 267 different marine species have been identified as being affected by plastic. For example, a study found that on the Spanish coast 75% of the endangered loggerhead turtle (tortuga boba) examined were founded to have ingested plastic. This can cause blocking of the digestive tract stopping them feeding correctly and killing the turtle.
Many governments around the world have already responded to the plastic bag problem, some discouraging their use, some banning them completely. In Ireland a charge of 15 centimos on every plastic bag caused a dramatic 90% fall in their use in the first fews months of its implementation. Both Italy and France will ban plastic bags by 2010. Beyond Europe many other countries are acting.. Australia, South Africa, the United States…
The Spanish position: in 2006 the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente signed a voluntary agreement with businesses and plastic manufacturers to reduce the use of plastic bags. The “Plan Nacional de Residuos Urbanos” has a target of 70% of bags to be biodegradable by 2015, not a bold measure when compared to other EU countries.
Alternatives: The best alternative is reusable bags. For businesses the best option then is to sell reusable bags rather than giving out the single use bags.
Of the reusable bags the best are obviously those made from natural materials. Of the single use bags there are alternative options, the best of those being paper bags or “bioplastics”. Paper bags whilst a better option than plastic, o still have an environmental impact. Bioplastic bags are plastics from renewable sources such as starch or cellulose – an example here is the bags made from potatoes that you can buy in Bionatura or Alcampo. These bags break down easily and can be composted.
So you have some options – it’s not so difficult once you get started. When I have unpacked my shopping I put my reusable bags back in the car ready for the next time. And I put in a box for the fruit and veg. Easy! Just think of the turtles you’ll be helping out.