The horrors of plastic shopping bags

At Pink Bins, recycling is a big part of our business. It is good for the planet and it makes financial sense.

We recycle many materials at our recycling plant in Manukau, South Auckland. These include timber, Gib board, scrap metal, cardboard and some plastics.

Though we don’t recycle plastic bags, in this post we explain why there is growing concern about their use.

What’s all the fuss about?

Plastic bags may seem harmless, but they can be devastating to the environment. And calls to ban them are becoming louder. 

You see, plastic can take 500 – 1000 to decompose. Because it is made from petroleum (a non-renewable resource), when it does break down, poisonous chemicals contaminate the earth.

Plastic bags are light, so they blow away in the wind. As a result, many don’t make it to landfill; they litter our parks and streets instead.

The effects of plastic bags in our waterways are particularly troublesome. Sea mammals and fish confuse them with prey and eat them. This toxic diet clogs their stomachs causing digestive problems, which ultimately lead to malnutrition or starvation.

In the USA alone, 12 million barrels of petroleum is required to make a year’s supply of plastic bags. The drilling process upsets local ecosystems and many believe it contributes to climate change.

What’s the solution?

Well, of course, you can stop using plastic bags in favour of recyclable or renewable bags.

Last year, an article in Stuff featured a Palmerston North supermarket that decided to try and reduce the number of plastic bags handed out to customers. So, they started giving a 5 cent discount for every bag of groceries packed in a reusable bag. Over four weeks, they gave out 15,000 fewer plastic bags than usual.

Until recently, the plastic bag problem was compounded by the fact they couldn’t be recycled in New Zealand. The best place for them was landfill. However, thanks to a $1.2 million initiative between the Government, the retail industry and the packaging industry, this is no longer the case.

Now, you can visit the recycling.kiwi.nz website and find a nearby supermarket that will take your surplus plastic bags, which are then sent to a recycling facility. The positive result is that New Zealand now imports fewer plastic polymers. That must be good.

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