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Are Re-usable Shopping Bags really reducing the Environmental Impact?

In October 2015 England introduced a single-use plastic carrier bag charge to reduce the amount of single use bags in circulation and encourage people to reuse bags,

Since the introduction of the charge the number of 'single-use' plastic bags given out by retailers has dropped from 140 to 25 for the average person each year*. In response to the introduction of the charge many retailers have introduced 'bags for life' in a range of styles and prices at till points.

But just how many times does a 'bag for life' need to be re-used to provide the same environmental performance of the average (LDPE) single use carrier bag?

RECYC QUEBEC, and The Danish Environment Agency have carried out independent studies to assess how many times a 'reusable' bag should be reused to provide the same environmental performance of the average LDPE carrier bag and the results have proved very interesting.

According to their findings, a non-woven polypropylene bag must be 6 times, woven polypropylene 5 times and cotton bags 52 times to equal the environmental impact of an average 17-micron carrier bag used just once. How many times do you re-use your 'bags for life'?

Shopping Bag Infographic

The conventional 'single use' plastic bags have several environmental and economic advantages; they are thin, light and the production requires little material and energy. Not only that, conventional 'single use' plastic bags can be re-used and are commonly re-used for bin liners. This second use avoids the production and purchase of bin liners reducing overall material use.

Top take always from the research:

  • Re-use all styles of carrier bags (even the ones dubbed as single use!) as many times as possible before disposal.
  • Prioritise functionality when designing your packaging product. The main aim is to maximise volume and weight holding capacity whilst minimising the amount of material needed and minimise the final weight of the carrier bag.
  • Recycle where possible at the end of use.

Source:

https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/the-science-is-clear-the-conventional-plastic-bag-is-the-best-for-the-environment-682165391.html?ispopup=y

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/05/drop-in-plastic-bags-littering-british-seas-linked-to-introduction-of-5p-charge

https://monsacintelligent.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ENGLISH_FINAL-Quebec-LCA-Highlights.pdf

Why we say no thank you to degradable additives

Landfill

Plastic bags that feature an oxo-degradable additive when exposed to certain conditions degrade may seem like the obvious choice when it comes to plastic pollution, but, are they really that environmentally friendly?

On the 19th July the BBC reported the EU Parliament passed a directive preventing oxo-degradable products being described as biodegradable and are considering a total ban.

Richard Thompson, a professor of marine biology at Plymouth University was sceptical about the technology and conducted an experiment to test the claims. He buried oxo-degradable bags underground and suspended them in the sea and monitored the results for more than two years. The results concluded that yes, the plastic degrades but, into tiny micro-plastics, which are released into the environment adding to the 5 trillion micro-plastics that are already affecting our oceans.

In our 30 year history, Duo has been introduced to many degradable additives but, we have yet to find one that doesn't compromise the recycling chain. Demand for products with recycled content is on the increase, fossil reserves are under pressure and global warming is a growing concern. Recycling and re-using this valuable material helps keep polythene in the chain and out of landfill and contributing positively towards to areas of concern.

So, what's the best use for polythene after it's been used? We believe using it again and again and again. Sending polythene to landfill is heart breaking to us. Our UK closed loop recycling system is hungry for polythene scrap to feed the demand for products made from recycled content. We want your waste and we'll even pay you to take it away. Find out more about our closed loop recycling system here
 

Sources

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-44888185

Duo UK Supports 22 Bees Project

22 Bees Project Collage

Illustrator Myro Coates with Duo Directors Anthony Brimelow, Zoe Brimelow & Dale Brimelow

Duo UK are extremely proud to announce our support of the 22 bees project, an initiative to commemorate the Manchester Arena attack.

Myro Coates, founder of the 22 bees project and accomplished illustrator from Prestwich, wanted to commemorate the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack by going to businesses in and around the city and draw the Manchester bee on their doors and windows in exchange for a donation to the Manchester Emergency Fund.

Over 200 of the hand drawn bees can be found in and around the city. Duo UK and the team donated towards the project and are so proud of the bee on the reception door representing our support.

The target amount of money they aimed to raise was £2,200 but remarkably they have surpassed that, and the total has reached over £8,000. There is still time to donate via their Just Giving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/the22beesproject

Myro Coates specialises in bespoke wedding drawings, window art and wedding stationary all drawn free hand find out more here https://www.myrodoodles.com/

Closed-loop nappies and bio-microbeads: the best new green innovations

Edie Image _May 2018

As featured on Edie.net on 11th May 2018

A number of eye-catching and potentially transformational innovations have emerged that could help businesses and nations deliver on resource efficiency, low-carbon transitions and combat climate change. Here, edie rounds-up six of the best.

Companies like AB InBev and Unilever have highlighted how sustainable products are creating value and opportunities for those willing to embrace them. Innovation is a difficult area to navigate, but as this round-up highlights, the benefits could usher in an unprecedented transition to the low-carbon economy.

With this in mind, this week's round-up covers a variety of ideas, concepts, products and systems that could help nations and businesses accelerate sustainability commitments.

Brick by Dirty Brick

Away from his Tesla and SpaceX escapades, Elon Musk has been investing in high-speed electric transport infrastructure. Musk's Boring Company has outlined plans to dig tunnels below Los Angeles to enable this transport, and it seems the construction of this process will lead to some low-carbon benefits.

On Twitter this week, Musk noted that the Boring Company would use the dirt from the tunnel digging to create bricks for low-cost housing. The plans have since been confirmed by Bloomberg, with a company spokesperson claiming "there will be an insane amount of bricks".

While Musk has outlined the plans to sell the bricks, he also noted the future Boring Company offices and even some part of the tunnel could replace concrete constructions with the bricks - delivering a lower carbon footprint while creating a second life for the construction waste of the tunnel. No information is available on how many bricks could be created.

Marine micro-miracles

As of January 2018, UK companies are prohibited from producing products that contain " rinse-off microbeads", due to the damage they cause to marine life. Now, researchers at the University of Bath believe that a biodegradable alternative could not only halt this damage, but actually reverse some of it.

As described in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering,  the researchers have developed microbeads made of cellulose found in plants, algae and even shellfish. Despite originally testing how cellulose could be used to make electronics more recyclable, the researchers soon found that by dissolving cellulose and forcing the solution through pores in glass membranes, they could create a microbead alternative.

Some of these biodegradable beads could be used to absorb pollution or the chemicals in sunscreen, according to the journal, both of which impact marine health. The research team are now investigating how the beads interact with ingredients in washes and creams.

You got mail!

Single-use plastic packaging is undoubtedly a hot topic at the moment, having been the focus of this year's Earth Day and the subject of much government debate. In a bid to help big-name online brands phase out flexible plastic bags, packaging firm Duo UK is has created mailing bags made from sugarcane as a sustainable alternative.

The Manchester-based company, which makes mailing bags for brands including JD Sports, Tesco and JD Williams, claims it is the first UK manufacturer to produce mailing bags from GreenPE. While traditional plastic bags are made from polythene derived from fossil fuels, GreenPE is a biopolymer produced using renewable sugarcane. It is chemically identical to traditional plastic and, because sugarcane captures and stores CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows, it is technically carbon-negative.

Duo UK estimates that if all mailing bags produced in the UK were made of GreenPE, the nation's carbon footprint could be reduced by 46,000 tonnes of CO2 annually - the equivalent of the average passenger plane flying around the world 10,000 times.

Nappy Hour

The global market for nappies is booming and is set to be worth more than £55bn by 2020 - but biodegradable nappies can take up to 50 years to decompose in landfill sites, while their non-biodegradable counterparts may require 500 years to fully break down.

A team of researchers at Taiwan's Chung Hua University have created a machine capable of recycling almost 100kg of used nappies per hour using less water than the average toilet. It works by cleaning the nappies in disinfectant before splitting them into plastic, fluff fibres and absorbent material. The used water is then recycled onsite while the clean materials can be sent away for re-incorporation into new household items like plastic bags, sanitary towels and cardboard boxes. The estimated daily carbon emission from this process is 35.1 kg of CO2.

The researchers are now planning to build a larger machine, capable of processing 10 tonnes of nappies each day. If this prototype is successful, it could be rolled out at hospices, care homes, hospitals and nurseries across Taiwan.

Drink your food waste problems away

Supermarkets have been criticised for contributing to the UK's food waste mountain by sticking rigidly to quality specifications, and routinely rejecting "ugly" or misshapen, but edible, fruit and vegetables grown by suppliers. What's more, research suggests that most supermarket customers are only willing to buy imperfect fruit and vegetables at a significant discount.

So, in a bid to reduce the amount of 'ugly' produce going to landfill, two of Tesco's major suppliers have created a range of new juices made from apples, beetroot, strawberries and watermelons that fail to meet produce specifications.

The range is launching this month and will be sold in 350 Tesco stores across the UK, with Waste Not estimating that the juices will save around 3.5 tonnes of produce from being wasted within the first 12 weeks of sale.

House of virtual cards

Of the many plastic items going to landfill, credit cards are often overlooked. They are typically made from PVC and outlive their usefulness after three years, so lending startup Affirm has created a plastic-free credit card alternative which only exists online.

The startup, founded by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, is targeting millennials with its new card-free micro-lending programme, which sees customers either signing up on the Affirm website for financing or applying for it at the checkout on some online stores before making monthly repayments.

Affirm recently announced it was making the programme available through Apple Pay - a step which essentially makes it a credit card provider without physical cards as it enables customers to tap their iPhones for their payments in brick-and-mortar stores. This could help reduce the amount of PVC credit cards produced worldwide each year, which currently stands at roughly six billion according to the International Card Manufacturers Association.

 

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