The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

January 31, 2008

A Bittersweet Symphony called D2W

Back in September, I wrote about the plastic AT&T Yellow Pages bag that showed up on my doorstep unsolicited. Here’s the update. I called the Yellow Pages, found out to whom I should write, and sent this letter (PDF file).

Not long afterwards, I actually received a telephone call from Jim Troup, the head of environmental issues for AT&T Yellow Pages. We had a long conversation about plastic bags, Yellow Pages recycling, and different types of degradable bags the company has tried. He told me he is researching alternatives to the plastic bags, and that they actually did an experiment up in Redding, California, with a bag made of a plastic called D2W. He called this plastic “chemo-degradable” rather than “bio-degradable” and said that AT&T was still looking for something fully biodegradable and would let me know when they’d made a decision.

Weeks went by, and I forgot about D2W plastic, until I received a comment and email from blogger Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd asking about this very product. So I figured I’d better look into it. D2W is a plastic made by a British company called Symphony Environmental Limited. It breaks down due to additives in the plastic that are added during the “extrusion stage of manufacture, when polymer granules are heated and melted to form packaging films.” The web site calls these additives “metal salts.” The metal salts cause the plastic polymers to break down to such a degree that eventually, micro-organisms can take over and finish the job biologically. The end product is “some H2O, some CO2, and a small amount of biomass.” Here is a more detailed description of the degradation process.

Sounds great, right? Not so fast, pardner. Let’s look at all the pieces of this description logically in light of what we know about all the problems of plastic.

First, what exactly are the “metal salts” that are added to the plastic, and can they leach out of the plastic while it’s degrading? I contacted Symphony to find out the answer to this question and received this Word Document, Technical Paper “Heavy metals” and essential trace elements (Word Doc), which states that “the commonly used transition metal compounds in commercial oxo-biodegradable plastics are manganese, iron, cobalt and nickel.” The paper goes on to explain why we should not be concerned about “heavy metals” being added to the plastic. Not being a chemist myself, I sent the paper to Solvig, a chemistry teacher I know, who wrote me the following:

The metal compounds are used to catalyze the breakdown of the plastic in the presence of light, heat and oxygen. Catalyst tends to be active in trace (extremely low) concentrations, but I don’t know if that is so in this particular product. If on the other hand there is a high concentration of nickel in the product, we will end up with high concentrations of nickel in the compost.

How would the nickel be taken up from the soil? The amount of nickel taken up by plants has little to do with its concentration in the soil. The accumulation of nickel in various parts of the plant remains constant whatever the concentration of nickel of the soil. [However,] the uptake of nickel from the soil by other organisms such as bacteria or other critters is not discussed.

They finish by saying: If you added degradable polyethylene film as mulching to the soil it would take 500 years to increase the nickel content of the soil by 1ppm. However, they don’t explain what they mean by that. How much biodegradable plastic are they talking about??? Just one little container, or a composting plant’s worth.

In an ideal world all the biodegradable plastic would be broken down in a composting plant, and the amount of nickel and cobalt released would depend on the amount of plastic in relation to the amount of other food and garden waste it is mixed with.

My feeling is that there is no danger of poisoning people when this stuff is broken down, but I don’t know since I don’t know what the concentration of metal is. Let’s stick with the precautionary principle and avoid single use items whether biodegradable or not.

So that’s question #1: Will the metals present in the plastic prove toxic to us in the long run? At this point, I don’t think we know. So many other additives in plastic, like phthalates and Bisphenol-A were once thought safe and are now being found to leach into our water and food.

Second, the web site description says that the metal salts are added during the “extrusion stage of manufacture, when polymer granules are heated and melted to form packaging films.” Let’s remember that D2W film is still being made from ordinary petroleum-based plastic granules, the same pellets commonly called “nurdles” that are being found in our oceans and taken up into the food chain. These raw plastic pellets do not contain any additive to help them break down. If they blow off a ship into the ocean, which they often do, they will remain there basically forever, attracting pollutants like PCB and DDE and concentrating them even as they enter the bodies of fish and other marine animals.

Any plastic film made from petroleum-based plastic contributes to the pollution of our oceans simply through the transportation of the raw material to the manufacturer. To state my opinion less formally, if we can’t find some way to keep these little buggers from blowing about and washing down storm drains, we oughtn’t be making things out of them.

Third, it takes energy and materials to create any disposable products, including products that biodegrade. Symphony’s answer to the question of reusable bags (PDF) is this:

Long-term re-usable shopping bags are not the answer. They are much thicker and more expensive, and a large number of them would be required for the weekly shopping of an average family. They are not hygienic unless cleaned after each use. Whilst sometimes called “Bags for Life” they have a limited life, depending on the treatment they receive, and become a very durable form of litter when discarded.

Shoppers do not always go to the shop from home, where the re-usable bags would normally be kept, and consumers are unlikely to have a re-usable bag with them when buying on impulse items such as clothing, groceries, CDs, magazines, stationery etc.

However, for those who believe in long-term re-usable bags, they can be made from extended-life oxo-biodegradable plastic and will last for five or more years.

I disagree that long-term use reusable bags are not the answer. And the comment about reusable bags not being hygienic is just plain ridiculous. We are so germ-phobic that we can’t have our produce touch material that’s been previously used? Do we not realize that fruits and vegetables are plants that grow in dirt fertilized by manure?

I believe that reusable bags should be the number one alternative for carrying home purchases and perhaps some type of degradable bag could be a distant second for those who forget to bring their bags to the store and are willing to pay for a disposable one. I think we ought to be charging fees for one-time use bags and containers in the first place, which would help to remind folks to bring their bags with them.

What do you think?

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Dorothy Lee
4 years ago

Well I give up, having started using these for rubbish bin. It seems the only way is to use unlined bins and wash them every time they are emptied.

Dr RossH
5 years ago

For some one new to degradable plastics you have done well to write the above. These additives from the likes of D2W and EPI etc. are dangerous to our environment. We do not want bite sized plastic fragments blowing and flowing around the environment. These fragments will exist for a long time. These companies spend a lot of time it appears on selecting words to green wash those less informed. Saying a reusable bag is inferior to a disposable bag is simple putting their financial benefit about any consequence to the environment. Any company should air to enhance the environment with their products, so wantonly destroy it for money is sad. They know their products are unpopular and have no traction in the west, so they target 3rd world countries who are struggling to come up with environmental plans that their economy can afford.
In short a degradable plastic will
a) Fragment into a small pieces if left up on top of the ground or in the ocean. The fragmentation is activated by sunlight and oxygen.
b) Will not even fragment if sent to a landfill as they get blocked off from sunlight and oxygen. So the remain like a conventional bag
c) Cannot be main stream recycled as the additive will potentially cause the new product to fragment.
d) The only effective way to dispose of a degradable bag is to incinerate it. This bring up all sorts of problems at the waste collection centers on how to identify a bag that has been made degradable. Then you have to think if you are going to incinerate the bag then what was the point of adding in a additive in the first place.
Degradable technology has no role in plastics.

5 years ago

The other major issue with the degrader additives that are used in oxo-degradable plastics is that they can end up in the recycling stream by accident, through incorrect disposal. The nature of these additives can compromise the integrity of plastic compounds that ARE viable for recycling, like PET and HDPE. This can render quantities of potential recyclate unusable, sending it to landfill or worse… best to avoid wherever possible.

10 years ago

your article was posted in 2008, there have been scientific advances in biodegradable additives, heavy metals are not found in D2W, the additive has been 3rd party lab certified to be safe:
This is my main solution for solving plastic pollution, having elected officials create legislation to force all plastic manufacturers to add d2w biodegradable additive to their manufacturing process. What is going on across the US with different city bag bans is absolutely absurd, plus they are really not outright banning bags, they are charging a 5-10 cent fee per bag which the grocery stores are keeping as revenue, currently the price of our food includes a small charge for the bags we use, so the grocery stores will be double billing us for bags. This is not going to solve plastic bag pollution because nothing is going to change, the 10 cent fee is not going to persuade a large amount of people to stop using them. Having biodegradable plastic bags is the only answer at this time!

Santa Monica implemented a bag ban last year and now they are having a big problem with dog owners because many of them are not picking up their dog poop outside because plastic bags are not easily accessible like they use to be before the ban. The whole point of banning the plastic bags was to reduce pollution of finding these bags in waterways, ocean, and sewers; however the dog poop is a bigger hazardous problem because if the pet owners are not picking up the poop, during a storm it will runoff into the water system and can possibly cause disease.

10 years ago

Join our Bag Bans are RIDICULOUS, let’s talk solutions group:

Beth Terry
10 years ago
Reply to  MarketingSense

MarketingSense So what are your ideas for plastic pollution solutions then?

Beth Terry
10 years ago
Reply to  MarketingSense

MarketingSense I have already addressed this ridiculous claim that reusable bags are not hygienic. Please read this post:

Collins Pt.
13 years ago

Biodegradable plastic and packaging is a modern necessity for our ever-endangered environment.
Now PLA has been used to line the indoors of Paper Cups in place of the oil based lining additional usually used, create Plastic Cups, Plates, Carrier Bags, Food Packaging and even Nappies.
Eco Pure is our proprietary blend of organic materials that does not modify the base resin to which it is added.

Thanks a lot for your information

13 years ago

D2W is used extremely wideliy in Mexico by the largest user of film BIMBO CORPORATION. A throurough study is very much needed to determine if the salts/metals can be gobbled up by the microbes as stated by the D2W producer.
Good luck.

13 years ago

Thanks for this informative post! I’m a retailer and I’ve just started researching d2w since one of my suppliers began packaging all of their products in it. I definitely prefer the precautionary principle, especially in light of our recent experiences with BPA and phthalates, so I’m very reluctant to trust d2w won’t leach. I also have concerns about contamination of the soil, groundwater, and air AND of the release of more CO2.

It sounds like it may make disposables a tiny step better, but sustainably-produced reusables are still a MUCH better option in my opinion.

14 years ago

Honestly, what a load of rubbish. He asked a school teacher about these “heavy metals”, a term which is considered to be nonsense in scientific circles, its a phrase used by sensationalist media.

I think you dont want a solution to the plastic because you have nothing less to moan about.

This looks to me like a good solution.

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hi Anonymous. I have actually brought up the point about methane gas here:


That said, I do thing that bio-based bags are a better choice when they can be composted properly. And I feel like we need to be pushing ourselves and our communities to be properly composting our food and other green waste instead of sending it to the landfill where it too gives off methane gas.

14 years ago

I've been researching this matter as an aside to my Environmental Studies course. I'm also a mature student – have a kid and everything – I use bags I've made myself, either from scrap material, or crocheted cotton string bags (which are like the TARDIS – they just seem to grow as I need).
What no one seems to have focussed on yet is that biodegrading plastic releases CO2, or Methane (depending on whether it's decomposing in aerobic or anaerobic conditions) – which is an even more damaging greenhouse gas. Right now it seems to me that if we HAVE to use plastic it's actually better to use non-biodegradable plastic which will return the carbon back to the earth from whence it came, and keep it there.
It's not pretty, it has it's own environmental problem for wildlife, and I don't like it, but on balance I think it is the lesser of two evils.

14 years ago

My first awareness of d2w came today, when I received a newspaper wrapped in a bag made with the d2w additive, so I started doing Internet research on it (and this blog came up in that search). Thank you Beth for obtaining the paper listing the metals that they may be using. The Symphony websites don’t list them, and neither do the Material Safety Data Sheets for their products. I also have chemistry training, and indeed I agree with Solvig that I wouldn’t worry at all about manganese or iron, and only slightly about cobalt. I still consider nickel to have a level of toxicity that would want me to investigate this further though.

The biggest (gaping) hole I see in the PDF note they sent you, though, is that it mentions SOIL accumulation and PLANT uptake, but it doesn’t even mention leaching into FOODS which might be stored in plastic containers made with the d2w additive, and which would then be eaten. I’d feel a bit more comfortable with this technology if they were a bit more forthcoming with the study data on THAT aspect. Just saying it complies with EU Directive 2002/72/EC doesn’t tell me much.

That having been said, I do agree with some other posters: it’s probably not a perfect technology, but any help with making plastics easier to break down (without causing further harm) is a least a step in the right direction. However I’m also a firm believer in reuse, and have been reusing bags (sometimes hundreds or literally thousands of times) for decades. Reuse is DEFINITELY the first and best option. People just have to learn to get in the habit of doing so.

Matt, in Los Angeles

14 years ago

Have you heard about an Australian innovation – Goody. Check out They have an additive that makes plastic compostable, without the use of heavy metals.

15 years ago

i think the d2w is great.

you can keep looking and looking for the right answer to our problem but you will never find it. Atleast these people are doing something about it, maybe not yet perfect but just give them time. Most of green people are just following a life style, but what do you really contribute to changes and i mean really changes?? i prefer for NOW a bit nicle in the soil than to find plastic bags everywhere… Face it… we always look at the negative side of things, thats just human nature… if we really want to find the solution to save this planet before it will stop turning eventually because the earth core will stoll or the sun will die… well lets just kill us all so the animals can live in peace on this planet. problem solve, great work d2w keep on improving…

15 years ago

Hi, I’m a vendor of oxo-biodegradable plastic disposable products. I am all for using cloth bags for groceries where practical, but I think that choice should be in the hands of consumers, not governments. You can find many relevant facts on my website at . I discuss the many costs of the various alternatives to the environment, which can even include mass starvation in the third world if hydro-biodegradable bags become extremely popular. Our company concentrates more on garbage bags-I don’t think many people want to reuse those! -Tim Dunn

k.pugalendhi, India
15 years ago

I am seeing Symphony work on oxo biodegradable additive development for packaging sector is excellent-They just made plastic’s non-reversible nature in terms of degradability to reversible (bio degradable) Their worked on un-zipping the macro polymer that is just opposite to polymerizing needs to be truly appreciated.

Replacing plastics is not the right approach but looking forward to solving the current issue seems to be “OK”. I believe the team working on this sector will able to clear the issue since they have all critic from you and me now

15 years ago

I came across this site and think it is great that the discussion is active and that some bits of ‘conventional widom’ get challenged. I am a bit dismayed lately as I scan the internet that so many “environmentally friendly” people are actually narrow minded and they take a small bit of information as gospel and don’t consider the larger scope. For example, some bloggers or posters simply say “Don’t use plastic bags, use paper.” But here’s a link to a website about the energy required to make paper bags versus plastic.
Apparently they agree that plastic ends up overall using less energy to make and distribute, but then the downside is that the disposal is less friendly with plastic than with paper. So we, as citizens of the world have to decide what is the better overall choice: If we use plastic, are we responsible enough to have them recycled or re-used for something that does not impact the environment? Those that use paper do so thinking they are greener for the environment, but they don’t consider the energy that was used to make them and ship them to the store, and the fewer re-uses that they provide. So are they really better? But if I throw them in the trash or recycling bin, the chances they sit around for 100 years in a dump are much less. You can’t win 100%, you can just try to do better than what you have been, and encourage others as well. I also see posts where people talk about the health impacts that plastics have from their by-products, but I have not found any scientific information on what those byproducts are..?!?Anybody got anything to share there?
I saw a poster say that we should ban plastics altogether. But after being at the hospital and seeing my 8 yr old neighbor kid getting a blood transfusion from a plastic bag, administered by a plastic syringe, I can’t totally agree with that thinking. Remember before the plastic revolution, when products were not individually packaged, before supermarkets, the estimate was that 65% of all fruits and veggies were spoiled and never eaten. After the introduction of freezing technologies and packaging advancements (plastic included) the amount of food spoilage and waste is closer to 1%. With the amount of underfed people and the food shortage in some areas of the world, I don’t see how the argument “we did so well without plastic for hundreds of years” stands up. I saw the other blog about the Oxo-degradeable plastic which breaks down in certain conditions into compostable materials. Instead of people welcoming the fact that companies are pushing this technology envelope, it seems that the majority of posters criticized them because the technology was not perfected already and there were still quesions about the nickel left behind. Should we not applaud those companies that are moving technology in the right direction?
I know most folks have the best intentions, but the abundance of mis-information, the lack of full disclosure, and the narrow-mindedness is maddening!

15 years ago

I agree with many of the comments I’ve seen posted here. (use of cloth bags for shopping, charging a surcharge if one does decide to use the store’s plastic bags) But it is also true that plastics are here to stay. To simply say lets eliminate plastics is not realistic nor constructive. Plastics are a very good material and if used properly are a great benefit to mankind and the world. But there is misuse of plastics as well. Filling our land and oceans with materials that are going to be hanging around our environment long after we are gone is one of the problems we need to address. And it looks like the D2W is at least a step in the right direction.

I am not saying that it is the end all solution, but perhaps as a first step. There is also much work being done in truly biodegradable plastics as well.
But the real answer will come not from one source, but from many.

But I am so glad to see forums like this one where we can discuss it and express ideas so that more and more people can become aware of problems and potential solutions.

Kurt in Los Angeles

Beth Terry
15 years ago

Hi Lily. You have not left me a way to contact you directly. If you’ll send me your email address, I can forward your request to Solvig.


15 years ago

thankyou very much for that article. I’m doing an assignment on oxo-biodegradable plastic bags and so far i’ve been unable to find out exaclty what d2w is. I was wondering if you could give me the email address of the chemist that you asked to look over the information Symphony sent you. It would be really helpful to talk to them about d2w in detail. Thanks. Lily

Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd
15 years ago

Anonymous —

> Even “bags for life” have to be
> disposed of sometime, and it is
> better for them to be made from
> oxo-bio plastic than from
> cotton, jute or paper, which
> emits methane in landfill…

I have been using the same heavy cotton canvas bags for literally YEARS now and they are still in perfectly good condition — can’t see how disposal of them will be a big problem.

> If you never spill milk or
> squash a tomato in your shopping
> bag it will stay clean and fresh
> – but most will not.

No, but I can throw my bag in the washing machine and then it will be clean again…

> Plastic “nurdles” blowing off
> ships? So what are you going to
> do? ban plastic altogether or
> ban ships?

What’s so wrong with banning plastic? We managed to survive without it just fine for centuries…

15 years ago

If everyone were as environmentally responsible as you, there would be no problem, but most are not and never will be.

OK dream on – while more and more non-degradable plastic waste accumulates in the environment.

Even “bags for life” have to be disposed of sometime, and it is better for them to be made from oxo-bio plastic than from cotton, jute or paper, which emits methane in landfill, or from normal or recycled plastic, which lasts for centuries.

If you never spill milk or squash a tomato in your shopping bag it will stay clean and fresh – but most will not.

Oxo-bio passes all the tests in ASTM 6954, which it would not do if it left dangerous amounts of metal salts or anything else in the soil.

Oil is not being used to make plastic bags – most of it is being used to make fuel. Polymer resin is made from a by-product, which used to be burned-off.

Plastic “nurdles” blowing off ships? So what are you going to do – ban plastic altogether or ban ships? Anyway polymer resin is not transported as loose granules.

Plastic is here to stay, so anyone who really thinks about the planet would want to make most of it oxo-biodegradable, so it won’t lie around in the environment for hundreds of years.

Shannon Hodgins
15 years ago

I put my canvas/fabric bags by the the door and take them out next trip out. I have nice big blue canvas/fabric bags from Ikea that I bought for like a quarter apiece on sale. You can actually roll them up and even put them in your purse or jacket pocket.

When dirty, I wash them. I haven’t broken one yet and I’ve carried like 40 pounds in each one. I supplement larger shopping trips with a box from the store and/or a few paper bags that I reuse again and again and again until they poop out.

If I’m somewhere and I forget a bag, I do remember the two handy things on the end of my arm called HANDS. They are supplemented by an additional ten digits called FINGERS. I use the arms, hands, and fingers to carry the items out.

If I can’t, then I wheel the buggy to my car and then load the items up one by one in the back. I also consider it a lesson learned. Do it a few times and you won’t forget your bag.

My van also has a nice big fat sticker on the back that says:

Plastic Bags Blow
BYOB-Bring Your Own Bag

There is no way I’d be caught dead using a plstic bag anymore, much less being a big fat hypocrite and carrying one to my car. Kinda keeps me in check.

*Love* the blog! Shannon

15 years ago

I keep my canvas bags in my car boot so they’re always there when I hit the supermarket. I’m looking for a bag that folds down sensibly & doesn’t make me look like my gran for when I go “retail therapy” shopping.
I think Eire decimated their plastic bag usage by hiling up tax on them – some ridiculous stats are bandied about – and the UK (starting with one of the London local authorities) is looking like it may follow suit.

15 years ago

Clearly, retailers don’t want purchases to require any thought, because then people wouldn’t buy so much crap. You put *any* barrier up, and people spend less.

But, why do we let them win, politically? Why is their interest in our running up debt the winning voice in every debate?

I’m going to call the phone co tonight and see if we can opt out of the phone book in the first place. We only use them for booster seats and door stops anyway.

15 years ago

Their argument has some extremely obvious defects… the part that goes,
“Shoppers do not always go to the shop from home, where the re-usable bags would normally be kept, and consumers are unlikely to have a re-usable bag with them when buying on impulse items such as clothing, groceries, CDs, magazines, stationery etc.” probably hits on the theme that continues to blow my mind, the theme that arises in all of such discussions and that is the theme of personal responsibility – the reference Molly from NH made in her comment- and the lack of it in our society… in fact, just yesterday I found myself writing abou this very thing. I understand this mentality of casting to the wind personal responsibility and responsibility of thinking for oneself has taken place for hundreds of years. Yes, I think it has only increased with time but has been around for what seems like forever. I think of an essay by Nietzsche that I read in a history class during undergrad. I don’t remember the name of the essay but I do remember that it was about how institutions, including government and churches, rely on the lay people for their authority by taking away the people’s ability to think for themselves. I’m not blaming the institutions, solely. We are responsible for allowing this to happen and for the perpetual state of thoughtlessness to continue… but I guess the point I am making is that this problem is much deeper-rooted in our way of living than we might at first realize. I do believe we have increased the size of this monster with the increase of disposability in our lives. I think this issue is one of the underlying issues that must be dealt with first, in order to jump-start people into behaviors that are more thought oriented. I think we will only continue to create more problems for ourselves in the future unless we have a mind revolution. That sounds funny. We cannot simply try to impress a new way of thinking for people to take hold of. Instead, we must trust that people will want to be better consumers and better citizens of the world if we encourage them to use their own minds and listen to their own intuitiveness… something we all have but many aren’t aware of. We must encourage people to make decisions based on multiple vantage points instead of this one-sided perspective that our capitalism-driven society blinds us with. Insead of seeing the all aspects of the lifespan of an item, we are encouraged to believe that we should buy it because it’s cool, hip, new, cheap and when our high is over we’ll be able to throw-it-away!!! Let’s start a mind revolution!!!!!

Bianca in Brooklyn

Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd
15 years ago

Thank you thank you thank you for doing all that wonderful research that I am just too lazy to do… I suspected that the D2W website was hiding something and you have proved me right. I will stick to my unhygenic reusable canvas bags! :)

Village Green
15 years ago

Beth, I really appreciate all the research you do on all the plastics issues.

In my view, we don’t need plastic bags for shopping — period. What we do need is a complete revamping of how items are packaged for sale and shipping. Nothing should be packaged using materials that are non-recyclable.

15 years ago

I love my TJ’s reusable plastic bag because it is self supporting, unlike the canvas bags that collapse if you aren’t holding them. But I plead guilty to forgetting to take it!

The exchange concerning the bags that are supposed to break down reminds me of a shell game…is the plastic here in one piece or is it there in many tiny pieces? The chemistry is quicker than the eye!

My daily newspaper comes double wrapped in plastic if it is a rainy day. This is to allow the grown men who have replaced the paper boys to thrown the papers outside instead of making sure they are on porches or in lobbies as the paper boys used to do…so it is, once again, convenience and efficiency in the short term for who knows what in the long term.

15 years ago

Was there an option not to receive the phone books at all?
God knows I don’t need one.

15 years ago

Ok, the bag breaks down in sunlight. And how many landfills have sunlight in them? Better to maybe put out the phone books every other year and save paper and irritation.

15 years ago

A Rebuttal…

“Long-term re-usable shopping bags are not the answer.”


“They are much thicker and more expensive,”

Oh…so, therefore they are less likely to break and you can load them up with more than two items, which is what baggers typically do at the store, thus the need for twice as many plastic bags vs. the reusable kind … you see this as a problem?!?

“and a large number of them would be required for the weekly shopping of an average family.”

If you are reusing them, you do not need a large number, only the same 10 or so required, over and over. Is 10 such a big number compared to the 15-20+ you’d get if you went the plastic option?

“They are not hygienic unless cleaned after each use.”

So – toss them into the wash if you’re worried about being hygenic! But there is compelling research out there that proves germ exposure may be good for us in the long run to prevent many of the health issues plaguing our youth (asthma, allergies, etc). There are severe health issues related to the overuse of antibiotic soaps for instance…
And the more severe health issues related to exposure to chemicals in plastics are not a concern?

“Whilst sometimes called ‘Bags for Life’ they have a limited life, depending on the treatment they receive,”

So…take good care of them, simple! They ride in the car with me to the store, I am not dragging them behind the car! I am not using them to scrub the sidewalk in front of my house! I am using them to put food in once a week.

“and become a very durable form of litter when discarded.”

…So now we’re worried about discarding litter! Yup, those cloth bags are REALLY going to have a major impact on our trash in comparison to the plastic option. I guess this person/corporation is unaware that canvas is compostable!?!

“Shoppers do not always go to the shop from home, where the re-usable bags would normally be kept, and consumers are unlikely to have a re-usable bag with them when buying on impulse items such as clothing, groceries, CDs, magazines, stationery etc.”

See – this attitude really gets me. This is all about personal reponsibility, which went out the window with the convenience of plastic long ago. This disposable mentality is severely hurting our planet, our species and everything else that inhabits the earth. So, make it a habit to keep the bags with you. Many of us don’t leave the house without our cell phone or wallet, so don’t leave the house without your reusable bags! Though, I cannot claim to be so righteous because I have forgotten mine on occasion and it leaves you with a choice – plastic, paper, or purchasing more reusable bags?

~Molly in NH

15 years ago

Another great post. Thanks so much for doing this in-depth research and sharing it with those of us with less time.

I *love* their arguments why re-usable shopping bags are not the answer. BECAUSE they are thicker, you can actually fill reusable bags to capacity without breaking, unlike thin, one-use plastic bags. Of course they are more expensive, but if we’re worried about Retail America here, the store is not bearing the “burden” of providing reusable bags, the consumer is. Yes, a family needs a few, but we have 3 kids, have fairly average buying habits and I can get by with about 6 bags.

The hygenic comment cracks me up. Sure, because grocery stores and other shops have ZERO problems with mice, roaches and other critters. All food is absolutely pristine from the factory to your home by the miracle of single-use plastic bags!!

And then they throw us a bone by saying long term bags can be made… OF PLASTIC!!

What a joke. Do these people seriously believe they are not contributing to the problem?

You know I’ve gotta plug Make A Bag here! (Patterns for reusable bags that you can sew, knit, crochet, macrame yourself.) **grin** Thanks, Beth!

15 years ago

I was hoping you had found out how to stop the unsolicited delivery of phone books. Mine go right in to recycle as we don’t use them. If I need a phone number I use the internet dex website.

15 years ago

Agree whole-heartedly. Disposable is wasteful, not matter what it is made from. And also, that hygenic comment? Yeah. WTF? Do they think we’re carrying around organs for transplant in there?!?! I don’t think my fruit loops will be harmed by being tossed in my “non-hygenic” bag. Besides, have you seen the bagboys that are handling your groceries?!?!? I think the bags are the LEAST of our worries!

15 years ago

Forgot to ask…

Have you seen the documentary “Blue Vinyl”?

If not, you need to get a copy. Today’s blog reminded me of a scene in there where a PVC sales rep was trying to pass off PVC as safe because chloride contains salt and so PVC is as safe as table salt.

15 years ago

You bet stores should charge a fee for plastic bags! Trader Joe’s offers a chance to win a $25 TJ gift certificate every time you don’t use one of their bags; Berkeley Bowl gives a $.05 credit for every bag that you bring and fill; and Ikea charges $.05 per bag and they donate the money to a tree-growing charity. Tonight I went to TJ for one item so I didn’t bring my shopping bag but I wound up buying five items and had to carry them rolled up in the front of my sweater because I was too lazy to go back to my car for the shopping bag and because I read Fake Plastic Fish and because I was punishing myself for not bringing in the shopping bag, just in case of something like this.

Thank you for this in-depth report which I have read far too late at night to comment about.

Axelle F.

15 years ago

I use canvas bags but market baskets are my favorite:
You can really load them up, plus they draw a lot of attention and that’s a good opportunity to start a conversation.

The only thing better is NO bag! I very rarely wash my canvas bags. I put meat in them and back into service they go – yes, even loose vegetables are rolling around in there!

One thing I cannot stand is going to the organic farm and watching people put bananas in a plastic bag, oranges in a plastic bag, potatoes in a plastic bag, everything in a plastic bag and then putting it into another plastic bag or worse yet, in a canvas bag. If they are using a canvas bag they must know – argh!

I think that we should be charged for any bag (paper or plastic) that the store uses; I think the produce bags should be bio-bags and people should pay for each and every one of them they use. This would be quite an incentive for change.