Plastic bags may be more environmentally friendly than some alternatives
'Not all plastic is evil' - plastic bags may be more environmentally friendly than some alternatives
The belief that paper bags are more natural and environmentally friendly than plastic ones could be a misconception.
"Many people say we should ban the plastic bags and go to paper bags because they're more natural, actually paper bags are one of the worst in the life cycle analysis because they take a lot of energy to make and also they use a lot of water in the process," says nanotechnologist Michelle Dickinson (Nano Girl).
"They're probably not as natural as you think they are. They're actually quite bad for the environment."
"Not all plastic is evil. We know they're a real challenge, but when you start looking at them deeply it's about which is the worst of the evils, and how do you as a user use them," she says.
Based on current calculations, to offset the carbon emissions that go into creating a paper bag it would need to be used four times, while a plastic bag needs to be used five times and a cotton tote bag more than 150 times.
"If you grab one of these (cotton tote) bags, use them once and then chuck them in your cupboard, its way worse for the environment than a single use plastic bag," Ms Dickinson says.
Foodstuffs have been trialling different bag options and multi-use plastic may be the best of the lot.
"The move to multi-use slightly heavier duty plastics is one of the options," says Foodstuffs CEO Chris Quinn.
"The customer can go well if I use that 20, 30, 40 times then I put it in the recycling, that's a much better thing than what they would've done otherwise."
“I think we have some really innovative solutions and so I would love to see us not just say we're banning them, but also show the world that maybe there's a solution that we can make in New Zealand that everybody else could us,” says Ms Dickinson.