The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
August 30, 2010

Is There Animal Fat in Your Plastic Bag?

Probably.  I visited a plastic bag factory this past weekend.  I took a lot of pictures and asked a lot of questions, and  I’ll write more about what I learned in a future post.  But I just had to share this tidbit of information right away:  most plastic bags (and other plastics, for that matter) contain “slip agents” to reduce the friction in the material.  And what are slip agents made from?  Mainly animal fat.

The factory owner I spoke with called it “chicken fat,” but according to an article I found afterwards, “Animal Derived Agents in Disposable Systems,” many of these slip agents are made from rendered beef tallow.  Apparently, manufacturers of biotechnology are concerned lately about beef fats used in plastic materials that come in contact with bioprocess fluids.  Why?  Because of prions. (Aka “mad cow disease.”)


Rendered animals.  Just one more reason to avoid the plastic bag.

25 Responses to “Is There Animal Fat in Your Plastic Bag?”

  1. sarah says:

    plastic sandwich bags or grocery bags?

  2. BethTerry says:

    @Plants rule The owner of the plastic bag factory told me his were made with chicken fat.  I assume he knows what ingredients he is using.  Plastic “recycling” is very energy intensive compared to not using the stuff in the first place.

  3. BethTerry says:

    foologins  I spoke to Robert Bateman, owner of Roplast Industries, Inc. in Oroville, CA, on August 27,2010.

  4. BethTerry says:

    BonnieHildebrand Hi.  I never found time to write it.  I spoke with Robert Bateman, owner of Roplast Industries, Inc. in Oroville, CA, on August 27,2010.

  5. BethTerry says:

    @Larue I’m not sure what point you are making.  None of us is perfect, yet we are doing the best we can and sharing knowledge.  How is that hypocritical?

  6. Plants rule says:

    These slip agents are also plant derived.  Many products are bovine-free, it’s just not listed as such.  The same proteins are extracted from plants.  Who knew! 
    Did you know that plastic is recyclable – Thermoplastics can be remelted or grinded up as reworked materials.  Many recyclers will pay for regrind, or reworking such materials.  Don’t get your news from one source!  Spend your life living:)

  7. foologins says:

    what about whole foods plastic bags? my daughter actually NEEDS some gallon sized ones for her school project,and that’s just plain disgusting about the plastic bags, what factory did you go to?  but now im thankful i use reuseable plastic containers,

  8. BonnieHildebrand says:

    I tried to find the follow up article that you said you would post, but haven’t been able to find it. Would you please provide the link?

  9. liz says:

    eek. another great reason to skip the plastic!

  10. GGirlGGreen says:

    So gross!

  11. usha says:

    I am a born vegetarian-our community in India is..My awareness has increased over time and have been trying to be more conscious. I am not a vegan.i am shocked at the way humans misuse animals.whats really frustrating is that in India given the layout of the society, the civic issues, pollution its extremely difficult to carry cloth bags like olden days..I hv been a user of plastic bags due to its convenience-I am clean freak – so I wash them and reuse them..its very difficult to imagine going out with non-plastic bags-in public transport and then carrying all that stuff and try to limit the stuff into the few bags we carry..its almost impossible..Is nt there a way to petition and stop them fm using the addtitives..

  12. Heather says:

    Hypocrisy? Really? Looking up & learning about things & trying to eliminate them from your life, is hypocrisy?

    No one can be 100% Vegan, but being vegan is about doing the best one can possibly do, per their given life & situations they are in.

  13. J. says:


    when people commit to live veganly they don´t actually commit to saving the world. It would be great to do that but the world is too big, sorry. We commit to start diminishing the usage of animal products. Lots of changes have been made so we can consume and not live in a teepee, that is very nice. Changes take time, you know. Unfortunately, we still have to use out toxic computers to exchange ideas about what we can do to become wiser consumers.. in the hopes that one day all of our actions don´t harm our mother earth. If we isolate from society, as you suggest, how are we going to change it? That is a bit contradictory, don´t you think?

  14. Larue says:

    Um, really, people, who cares? You wouldnt know that so many products out there were made of animal by-product. Its amazing that so many ‘treehuggers’ jump on the ‘go green bandwagon’, but so few actually live a completely ‘animal free’, ‘pollutant-free life’. Hipocrisy. While we can all make choices, you cannot forget the world in which we live in, in which we all benift by, in which we all enjoy a care-free, leisurely existence. And tell me I am wrong for those of you who live completely off the grid (and since you all all posting emails, you must be using computers, which are made of some of the most toxic pollutants known to man). If you feel that strongly, go live in a teepee. Oh wait, didnt natives use animal skins for clothing and protection? Guess yer all screwed then. Me? I will still use plastic bags when I need ’em.

  15. Lisa Swenson says:

    OMG!! I had absolutely no idea, and feel more than a little used and abused to find this is a process THEY don’t feel we need to know about. I have caught my cat licking a plastic bag that came in on a 12 roll of toilet tissue, which has perplexed me to no end…now I have the disgusting, gross answer to why. I found this blog on the treehugger site, very informative. Thanks for the info, I will let other know so they can keep these things out of their homes!

  16. che says:

    yea it kind of make us wondering what else that theses so call waste find it ways into our daily life. Me guess it’s rooted from the days where things are sources and exploit to the very maximum extend, the so call side effects of those harmful substance or their byproducts was never in the equations.

  17. Lori Alper says:

    That is disgusting and unbelievable! It certainly explains why so many animals eat plastic bags. I have a lab and she will eat anything-I thought that was the explanation for her love of garbage bags.

  18. Clif says:

    Rendering – hummmm. I had planned on cremation but if I could be useful to society at the very end, well, why not?

    Remember that old old song by James Brown “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag?” it could be updated, if my idea catches on, to Papa IS a Brand New Bag!

  19. Laura says:

    I am so grossed out by this! I am never bringing one of those bags home again!

  20. Natashia says:

    What kind of plastic bags do you mean? Like grocery bags, or like the ziplock bags? Either way, kinda gross…

    • Beth Terry says:

      Natashia, I haven’t researched all plastic films. The factory I visited made plastic shopping bags and agricultural films. I’m guessing that all polyethylene films contain varying amounts of the stuff, depending on the desired amount of slipperiness.

  21. Pheas says:

    That explains why my cat likes to like them!


  1. 404 Not Found says:

    […] In a more technical explanation from Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News: “Although polymers are manufactured from petroleum feedstock, plastics manufacturers often use additives of animal origin to improve material properties and/or to aid in processing of raw polymers” — which blogger Beth Terry proved first-hand. […]

  2. […] In a more technical explanation from Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News: “Although polymers are manufactured from petroleum feedstock, plastics manufacturers often use additives of animal origin to improve material properties and/or to aid in processing of raw polymers” — which blogger Beth Terry proved first-hand. […]

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