Even though the government have imposed a 5p charge on all plastic bags from major retailers, between April 2017 and April 2018, 1.75 billion plastic bags were sold in the UK.
However, the picture on what is sustainable and what isn’t, is not actually as clear as you might hope. For instance, it takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag – as opposed to a plastic bag. Moreover, when transporting paper bags more carbon is emitted because they are heavier. They do, however, biodegrade – something that plastic bags take millions of years to do. Yet, to make a paper bag as sustainable as a plastic bag, it must be reused three times – something almost impossible owing to its poor durability. A cotton bag must be used 131 times – an impressive number, but if it is well made, then it is a great solution.
When it comes to food waste, plastic also is effective – WRAP, an anti-waste charity estimates that it saves UK shoppers up to £500 million per year on food. With the emergence of zero waste stores providing foods such as pasta and rice in large dispensers, taking your reusable bag to such shops.