Tesco Drops Oxo-degradable Plastic Bags

One of the UK’s largest retailers, Tesco, recently announced it has ditched its ‘eco-friendly’ carrier bags after research revealed they may be more environmentally damaging than conventional plastic bags.

Perhaps this headline from London’s largest circulation daily newspaper, The Daily Mail, says it best:

Myth of ‘eco-friendly’ bags exposed as Tesco dumps ‘green’ carriers that may actually harm the environment

Why the loud ‘symphony’ of criticism? Actually, this move comes more than one year after a report by Britain’s DEFRA (UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), which initially raised concerns about claims that ‘oxo-degradable’ bags would degrade to water, carbon dioxide and biomass in just 18 months.

A competing supermarket chain, the Co-operative, took similar action to drop ‘oxo’ degradable bags last year in the wake of the DEFRA report.

The 2010 DEFRA report concluded that degradability depends on where and under what conditions the bag ended up after use. In a landfill, an oxo biodegradable bag won’t degrade at all because there is no light or oxygen, and these materials also cause problems in recycling streams according to the European Plastics Recyclers Association. TESCO is merely the latest retailer to catch up to this reality.

According to an article published by the UK National Non-Food Crops Centre, Tesco commented:

“We took the decision to remove the biodegradable additive because we believed it contributed towards them becoming weaker (addressing customer concerns about the strength of our bags) and to help better promote their re-use and recycling at end of life. This decision was underpinned by a detailed review of the science, using external experts to help us understand the full life cycle environmental impacts of our carrier bags.”

Tesco also stated that as early as February 2011 it started to issue new carrier bags to its stores without the biodegradable additive, but with up to 15% recycled plastic.

– GWS –