Environment-friendly bags not friendly environmentally

KUCHING: The perception that paper and biodegradable bags are more environment-friendly than plastic bags is a misconception, said Malaysian Plastic Manufacturers Association (MPMA) president Lim Kok Boon yesterday.

He claimed that switching to the so-called environment-friendly bags would bring more harm to the environment.

“The truth is plastic bag generates 60 to 79 per cent less greenhouse gases, consumes only 4 per cent of water needed to make paper bag, 40 per cent less energy to manufacturer and creates 80 per cent less waste.

“Apart from that, plastic bag uses 91 per cent less energy to recycle while paper bag generates 70 per cent more pollution and 5,000 per cent more water pollution,” he reasoned.

Delivering his talk entitled ‘Plastics and the Environment’ at a hotel here, Lim pointed out that another common misconception people have on plastic bags was “they are not good because they take 1,000 years to degrade”.

He explained that modern landfills due to its lack of important elements such as water, light and oxygen would not able to completely degrade paper and biodegradable bags.

“Degradation in the absence of oxygen results in the carbon and hydrogen recombining to form CH4 or methane gas which is a potent greenhouse gas. CH4 is 22 times more harmful than carbon dioxide (CO2). Degradation in a landfill is therefore harmful,” he claimed.

Furthermore the introduction of biodegradable plastic bags would encourage people to litter in the belief that they were less harmful to the environment and would be degraded quickly.

“Paper and biodegradable bags generally cannot decompose in modern landfills. However, if it does degrade, it is likely to form very harmful methane gas,” he added.

MPMA believed the world would be worse off without plastics, both from the economic and functionality aspect.

“However, plastics can, just like any other materials, have an adverse impact on the environment, if it is not properly managed,” he said, adding that the most effective way to manage solid waste was through 3R – reduce, reuse and recycle.

“Don’t send your plastic bags to landfill, send it for recycling!” he advised.

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