Recycling – the facts

Recycling - the facts
Our mission at Cromwell Polythene is to sell products made from recycled material into the waste management sector and encourage their use, to aid the development of sustainable markets. We’d like to present some recycling facts and figures that help keep us on top of our game, encourage us to do better and dispel some of the myths and plain untruths about polythene bags and their effect on the environment.

  1. A person driving 20 miles extra per year will leave a bigger carbon footprint than the average household consumption of polythene carrier bags.
  2. Plastic shopping bags comprise only 0.05% of landfill.
  3. Plastic shopping bags use 70% less material today than they did 20 years ago.
  4. Degradable plastic bags are a waste of resource and send the wrong message (it’s OK to throw this thing away). Although potentially re-usable to some degree, by definition they have a limited life and cannot be re-processed. Worse still, they wreak havoc when mingled with other polyethylene bags in established recycling schemes.
  5. Plastic bags of all types (deemed by many to be a large part of the litter problem) are actually far less than 1% of all litter. Wrap Dec 2002
  6. Since their introduction some forty years ago, plastic bags and sacks have provided the waste management professional with the lowest cost, lowest volume method of localised waste containment with the lowest overall environmental impact.
    CBC Issues Briefing Jan 2004
  7. Plastic film products of all types comprise only 3% of the domestic waste stream with plastic carrier bags accounting for just 0.3%.
    CBC Issues Briefing Jan 2004
  8. If Europe were to follow Denmark’s lead, it is estimated that 30 million tonnes of oil each year could be saved by burning waste plastics in energy from waste plants.
    CBC Issues Briefing Jan 2004
  9. In landfill, plastic bags generate 60% less greenhouse gas emissions than paper bags that are not composted, and 79% less greenhouse gas emissions than composted paper bags.
  10. The plastic bags generate 3,097 tons of CO2 equivalents per 100 million bags; while paper bags that are not composted generate 7,621 tons, and composted paper bags generate 14,558 tons, per 100 million bags produced.
    Plastic vs. Paper Bag LCA Studies 1 June 2007
  11. Plastic remains stable and inert in landfill. It will not, therefore, break down and give off harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
    PAFA web site – sustainability
  12. It takes 91% less energy to recycle the same weight of plastic than its equivalent weight of paper.
    Plastic vs. Paper Bag LCA Studies 1 June 2007
  13. Without plastic packaging more resource would be needed to produce alternatives. Up to four times the mass would be required, more than twice the energy and around three times more harmful emissions if we tried to replace packaging in our lives.
    PAFA web site – sustainability
  14. In 2010 a total of 401 councils collected plastic bottles, while 98 local authorities collected other plastics as well.
    PAFA web site – sustainability