It’s no secret that low- and no-value plastics are environmentally problematic. They are difficult to recycle, and the vast majority of this type of waste ends up in landfills or abandoned to nature. Furthermore, they do not degrade; rather, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces, called microplastics, that end up in soil, waterways, and even in our food.
Plastic bags are among these types of plastics. Many of the aspects of plastic bags that make them so convenient—they’re lightweight and inexpensive—also make them an environmental hazard. Because of this, they’re gaining a stigma across the world.
But, it’s not just individuals and companies that are straying away from plastic bans. Countries across the world are phasing out plastic bags in favor of other more sustainable options.
Here’s how and why plastic bags are being phased out and what that means for your business.
Why plastic bags are being phased out
Plastic bags are used to an exorbitant extent. Around 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, and fewer than 1% of plastic bags are recycled.
Plastic bags are typically made of high-density or low-density polyethylene. These types of plastics have a low market value, and even if they can be recycled, few recycling centers will do so.
In many areas around the world, this type of plastic waste is not collected, and individuals must take their plastic bags directly to recycling centers (if there are even recycling centers in their area that will take them). This creates little incentive to recycle plastic, and the vast majority of plastic bags will end up in landfills or abandoned to nature. Because plastic bags are lightweight, they can easily blow away in the wind, so plastic bags that end up in a landfill often end up abandoned in nature, anyway.
Although all mismanaged plastic waste can end up in our oceans, plastic bags pose an additional threat. Many studies suggest that they may be the deadliest form of marine waste. Floating in the water, they tend to look like jellyfish, which means that marine animals, like sea turtles, accidentally ingest them. Besides eventually killing the animals (their stomachs fill with plastic that they cannot digest, so they starve to death), it has also led to human ingestion of plastic materials when they consume seafood.
Although plastic bags aren’t the only low-value plastic material that should be phased out, it’s one of the most prevalent and easiest to replace. Phasing out plastic waste is one small step in the fight against plastic pollution, but it can still make a huge difference.
Which countries are phasing out plastic bags?
According to the UN, as of 2018, 127 countries have instituted some sort of regulation on plastic bags. And, that number only continues to grow. These regulations include full bans, partial bans, extended producer responsibility legislation, and more.
Notably, Australia banned all plastic bags in 2011, and New Zealand plans to phase out all single-use plastics by 2025. In the United States, in lieu of a federal ban, individual states and counties have instituted their own bans and/or regulations.
In countries like Denmark and Ireland, a tax has been instated on plastic bags. This often means that customers must purchase plastic bags in order to make up for the tax.
Some areas, like the Falkland Islands, have instituted a voluntary charge. Although this doesn’t require a fee for plastic bags, it makes it easier for retailers to charge for plastic bags in order to incentivize reusable bag usage.
Interestingly, even full bans on plastic bags haven’t completed removed the problem. In Australia, where plastic bags have been banned for the last decade, studies have shown that it’s been only marginally effective due to a lack of support from stakeholders. This shows us that, if we are to truly get rid of plastic bags from the environment, we will need support from all stakeholders, not just legislative powers.
The important role of businesses in plastic bag usage
In all environmental legislation, including that surrounding plastic bags, support from all stakeholders—governments, businesses, and individuals—is needed. Even if governments pass regulations surrounding plastic bags, businesses need to adhere to these standards and commit to the elimination of single-use plastic waste, including plastic bags.
Furthermore, if your company is in an area where few or no plastic bag bans are in place, it can still do its part to help reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste in the environment by encouraging reusable bag use within your company. Sustainability experts agree that businesses have a unique role to play when it comes to enacting real environmental change, and even big businesses are acknowledging that failure to commit to real environmental action will devastate business in the long run.
But, committing to the removal of plastic bags from your company isn’t just a responsible environmental choice; it’s what customers demand. Studies show that consumers want to support companies that help them make more sustainable choices, and removing plastic bags in favor of reusable ones is one way to do that.
Invest in reusable bags with bk-bags
Whether or not regulations are behind your company’s choice to make the switch to reusable bags, bk-bags can be the retailer that you turn to. We offer a wide variety of reusable bag options that you and your customers will love.
All of our bags come from sustainable materials. We fully audit supply chains, and all of our manufacturers hold certifications so that you know that our bag materials are eco-friendly and come from ethical sources. Whether you’re looking for recycled options or environmental virgin materials, we’ve got the bag for you.
We also boast the highest quality. Reusable bags should be able to stand the test of time. All of our bags are incredibly durable, ensuring that your customers can use them time and time again. Furthermore, you can print your logo or other designs on your bags, offering a unique marketing opportunity for your company.
We don’t just offer retailer bags. We also have a supply of garment bags, backpacks, duffle bags, and more, guaranteeing that we can fit your needs. When you want to make a sustainable bag choice for you and your customers, bk-bags is the one to turn to.