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Scientific Sally: Bag-tastic

blue plastic_bag_29_05_129-to-5 You must be joking: No weekday is ever the same for part-time freelance scientist and full-time parent, Sally. This week, Sally looks at the benefits of the humble plastic bag.

Perhaps you are thinking this article is going to be about the latest must-have fashion arm accessory – maybe Louis Vuitton, Channel or Prada… but it’s not.

When I talk bags, I talk carrier. You know the ones? The lambasted, cheapy, lowest class of a bag; the one you may dispose of without much of a thought although it adds to the waste in our oceans. Many think there is no poorer kind of a bag.

I think ‘disposable’ carrier bags are totally misunderstood. The real truth is that disposable carrier bags are the best!

Carrier bags are the best way to carry home your shopping if you don’t have hands capable of holding multiple, oddly shaped supermarket items, or are unwilling to sling your M&S knicker purchases over your shoulder nonchalantly for the world to view.

And why do I value them so highly? Because they use the least number of resources to achieve a large, carrying capacity. If you want to carry something home, do it with a thin-walled ‘single use’ plastic carrier.

Some facts:

Plastic bags consume less than 4% of the water needed to make paper bags
Plastic grocery bags consume 40% less energy during production and generate 80% less solid waste than paper bags
Paper bags produce 50% more water pollutants than plastic bags
It takes 91% less energy to recycle a kilo’ of plastic than it takes to recycle a kilo’ of paper

Plastic bags are useful and provide a hygienic, odourless, waterproof, robust and convenient way of carrying goods. Because of their strength and durability, plastics bags can be re-used time and time again, either for a similar purpose or a wide range of other uses. In Ireland where they have introduced a plastic bag tax, the sale of thin walled plastic bin-liners has rocketed, hmmm… I wonder why?

The most important thing to do with plastic bags is value them. Reuse them and reuse them and finally put them in for recycling if you have local collection facilities. They may be recycled into other plastic products but if not, they still have a useful purpose as a fuel. It is only the poor behaviour of humans discarding plastic that has led to plastic waste in the oceans; not the material itself.

And for readers with a keen eye for design, check out how Prada knows that plastic has its merits! http://www.polyvore.com/prada_plex_bag/thing?id=17791353

For further info on why you should value plastics, I recommend this short video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbnS0qpEY8w


About the author
9-to-5 You must be joking: No weekday is ever the same for part-time freelance scientist and full time parent Sally. Each Friday she’ll pass on what’s affected her 9-to-5 week with a smattering of vociferous opinion and tongue in cheek humour. It could be about being a scientific ‘ghost writer’ for Peter Mandelson, the virtues (yes virtues!) of carrier bags, how to make rice crispy cake (with no rice crispies) or how working at home is often not the cushy number her husband thinks it is!

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Picture credit: Shutterstock

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