Trucost’s latest study, “Plastics and Sustainability: A Valuation of Environmental Benefits, Costs and Opportunities for Continuous Improvement,”  (pdf version)  The study found that the environmental costs of using plastics in consumer goods and packaging is nearly four times less than using alternative materials.

Trucost estimates that swapping plastic for alternatives such as glass, tin or aluminum would increase environmental costs from $139 billion to $533 billion — that’s taking into account ocean damage, end-of-life management, transportation, production and material and energy recovery costs and impact”

Well this is a turn up! – although if anyone had asked us, we could have told them that plastic is pretty fantastic.  Apart from being lightweight, strong, flexible and waterproof, there is nothing like it when it comes to protecting food and other goods from damage and contamination and bringing them home from the shops.  It is also made from a by-product of oil refining which used to be wasted, and while we have that resource it makes sense to use it.

Oxo-biodegradable (controlled-life) plastic See is even more fantastic because as well as being indistinguishable from conventional plastic for all intents and purposes, it also becomes biodegradable, which means that if it escapes collection and ends up in the open environment, it will not be around for decades.

Recent  life cycle assessment comparing oxo-biodegradable, bio-based, conventional, paper and cotton re-usable bags  – have concluded that oxo-biodegradable (controlled-life) plastic is more environmentally friendly than bio-based (sometimes called compostable),  conventional, paper and cotton re-usable bags when energy, land use, water, fertilizers, fuel, transport and emissions were examined.

Better still, if collected during their useful life, oxo-biodegradable bags can be recycled with conventional plastic See and can be made in existing plastic factories with existing workforce, machinery and raw materials for little or no extra cost and the approximate life of the bag can be set at manufacture.

However, if an oxo-biodegradable bag escapes collection and finds its way into the open environment on land or sea, See it will degrade and biodegrade in months rather than years until there is nothing left, no fragments of plastic or toxic residues, in the same way as a leaf, only quicker.

So this is something we can do to help the environment right now, and a new perspective is very welcome.  It’s a faint hope, but perhaps those seeking to rid the world of plastic bags will consider the report and the benefits that this new technology can offer.

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