In a surprise finding, scientists from NTU discovered that plastic bags are more eco-friendly than paper and cotton bags.
In the study that was released on Wednesday 14 October, 5 types of bags were evaluated for their environmental impact associated with their production, distribution, transportation, waste collection, treatment and end-of-life disposal.
Director of residues and resource reclamation centre at the Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute Assistant Professor Grzegorz Lisak, who led the research, said, “It is essential to evaluate the implications case by case for dealing with plastic waste.”
“In a well-structured closed metropolitan waste management system with incineration treatment, using plastic bags may be the best option that is currently available, provided that there is no significant leakage of waste into the environment,” he said.
The different types of grocery bags cause varying degrees of impact on the air and water quality. The extraction, manufacture and transport of bags via shipping cause emissions, which impact the ecosystem.
Primary reasons for the difference in impacts
The primary reason for the difference in impacts is due to the various types of raw materials, production methods, use of chemicals, location of manufacture and shipping distances, among other factors.
Recommendations for Singapore
It is advised to opt for reusable plastic bags that can be reused multiple times. Otherwise, single-use HDPE bags are recommended over kraft paper and biodegradable single-use options, the report said.
Minimizing the overall consumption would facilitate a substantial lowering of environmental impacts. Reusing or reprocessing the single-use HDPE bags may be an option to prevent excessive consumption of the plastic bags.
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