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March 19, 2012 / rangermcfadden

Plastic Bags Least Bad for Environment: UK Environment Agency

Perhaps you think that plastic shopping bags ought to be banned–after all, four billion of them are thrown away each year.

BBC News Magazine had a look at what some countries are doing to address the problem and the disadvantages of those approaches.

Last year Britain’s Environment Agency published a Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags, which concluded that long-life bags have to be reused a number of times if they are to be environmentally a better option than standard plastic carrier bags.

For instance, if a plastic bag is used just once, then a paper bag must be used three times to compensate for the larger amount of carbon used in manufacturing and transporting it, a plastic “bag for life” must be used four times, and a cotton bag must be used 131 times.

If a plastic bag is reused, of course, then its carbon-footprint-per-use decreases further – and the number of times the alternatives have to be used to match this low footprint is multiplied.

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