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Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags

February 1, 2011
By UK Environment Agency

A study from the United Kingdom entitled the “Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags” is casting doubt on the supposed environmental benefits of reusable shopping bags.

A study from the United Kingdom entitled the “Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags” is casting doubt on the supposed environmental benefits of reusable shopping bags.

The study, published by the UK Environment Agency, found the potential of reusable shopping bags to benefit the environment depends on how many times they are used before being discarded. Real-world data show the bags are currently harming the environment instead of helping it. 

“Whatever type of bag is used, the key to reducing the impacts is to reuse it as many times as possible,” the summary states. “The paper, low-density polyethylene (LDPE), non-woven polypropylene and cotton bags should be reused at least three, four, 11 and 131 times respectively to ensure that they have lower global warming potential than conventional high-density polyethylene (HDPE) carrier bags that are not reused.”

In other words: Grocery shoppers must use their cloth bags 131 times to see the environmental benefits of using reuseables that global warming alarmists tout. On top of that, shoppers who reuse their plastic grocery bags aren’t committing the environmental cardinal sin to the level that alarmists claim.

“The reuse of conventional HDPE and other lightweight carrier bags for shopping and as bin liners is pivotal to their environmental performance, and reuse as bin liners produces greater benefits than recycling bags,” the study reads. And reusing a plastic bag just once puts it in the same environmental category as a cotton bag that’s reused 173 times—or, nearly every day for six months.

 

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