With so many options to choose from, you’re probably wondering what the big deal is with plastic bags.
But we’ve found out what the science says, and the answer could save your wallet.
The plastic bag problem is the biggest threat to our economy, environment and food supply, says the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
In a new report, ABS has ranked the plastic bag as Australia’s biggest environmental and health threat, a position it has held for a long time.
Here’s what we know.
Plastic bags are the new dirty Do you ever feel like a little dirty?
This is a common feeling, especially when you’re using a reusable bag, says lead author of the report, Dr Joanne Sperling.
“We know that we’re eating more plastic in the kitchen and in the shopping centres and it’s becoming increasingly common to see this as a major environmental and economic issue,” she says.
“The plastic bags that we see in supermarkets are more than just plastic, they’re made of a material called polyethylene, and these bags have a lot of energy and they’re highly absorbent, so if they get into the water and get into our food and the environment they can be harmful.”
Sperlings research found that in the past decade, plastic bags have become the main cause of pollution across Australia.
“It’s become so widespread and so widespread that we’ve had to have a new definition for what plastic bags are,” she tells news.com.au.
“If you look at the data, the majority of plastic bags we’ve seen are not made from natural materials.”
According to the ABS, plastic bag production rose from $1.1 billion in 2008 to $3.4 billion in 2015.
The growth has been driven by demand for bags from Asia, the Middle East and the Americas, as well as the rapid growth of the plastic industry in Australia.
These industries are also responsible for the largest number of emissions, particularly nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, which are linked to premature deaths and cancers.
In the report’s findings, there are also concerns that Australia’s growth is not sustainable.
“As the economy grows, we’re starting to see a shift from a natural resource to a human resource,” Sperlin says.
So, what’s in plastic bags?
The most common type of plastic bag is polyethylenimide (PEI), which is a non-toxic polymer made of carbon and hydrogen.
But, there is also a range of other types, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which has been around for decades.
PVA is an alternative material that is not made of plastic, and is used in a range.
There are other types of plastic materials that are used in bags, such as polyethylenes, which have a plastic outer layer and an inorganic polymer inside, and polypropylene, which is used for food packaging.
These plastics can be recycled.
But they have a higher amount of energy than natural materials and can be extremely expensive.
“When you get these plastics into the environment, you end up with some of these materials contributing to greenhouse gases,” Saborin says.
The ABS found that plastic bag usage in the United States has grown by about 50 per cent since 2010, and by 30 per cent in the EU.
There has also been a recent increase in the use of plastic in food packaging, which has led to the formation of plastic-based additives such as methylparaben.
What do the plastics in plastic bag do?
According to Dr Sperring, the main purpose of a plastic is to provide a strong and durable surface for a product.
“For example, if you have a product with a low water content, you want a surface that will hold it together,” she explains.
“There are different types of plastics that can be used for this.
Some of these are used for use in the manufacturing of a product, or for a variety of other things, so they’re very versatile and can work for a lot more uses than just the packaging industry.”
However, there have been concerns over the increasing use of plastics in the manufacture of a range the ABS describes as “food packaging”, such as food packaging that is intended to be eaten on the spot.
“These food packaging plastics are made from polyethylensilene (PE), which can be reused in the food packaging industry,” Sobral says.
While PE can be made from any type of material, the ABS has found that polyethyleneglycol (PEG) is more commonly used.
It is also made from a polymer called polypropylene, which can also be reused as food.
Polyethylene is a polypropene polymer made from two molecules: ethylene and propylene.
Polypropylene is a highly absorbant, and can absorb moisture.
Polyesters are often found in the packaging of bread, cheese, cookies and chips.
However, they can also make a good substitute for natural polymers. How