Carbon footprint of carrier bags announced

Published on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 09:54
Posted by Scott Buckler

A report commissioned by the Environment Agency shows that commonly-used plastic ‘bags for life’, if used four or more times, will have a lower carbon footprint than single-use carrier bagsLightweight single-use carrier bags have the lowest carbon footprint per bag based primarily on resource use and production. Paper, heavyweight plastic and cotton bags all use more resources and energy in their production. A key issue, however, is how many times bags are reused.


The popular plastic ‘bags for life’ (low-density polyethylene), provided by many supermarkets, need to be used only four times to ensure they have a lower carbon footprint than lightweight bags used only once.  Premium, heavier weight ‘bags for life’ that look like fabric and are made from woven plastic if used 11 times will have a lower carbon impact than single use bags.

The Environment Agency said that other environmental impacts of single-use lightweight plastic bags such as litter – which weren’t assessed by the study – also need to be taken into account.

The report - Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags - was requested by the previous UK Government.  It was part of an overall study they were carrying out on how to reduce the environmental impact of retail and food packaging.  It has been published today following a period of peer review and discussion with the retailers.

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