The Reusable Plastic Bags standard was created as a starting point to empower manufacturers, retailers and consumers to transition away from single-use plastic bags toward options that are GOOD for people and planet.
Currently, vast numbers of Australian consumers use disposable bags for carrying their shopping, with over 7 billion single-use plastic bags in circulation each year. Many of these plastic bags are made from petroleum and natural gas, which are non-renewable resources. Some are also made from coal and cellulose.
Plastic bags contribute to a wide range of severe environmental impacts, such as pollution of our waterways, littering our green spaces and depleting resources during their manufacture. Furthermore, single-use plastics have been accumulating in the environment with terrible consequences for wildlife and their habitats.
Marine animals are particularly vulnerable to being caught in plastic debris and can mistake light-weight bags for food sources such as jellyfish. For example, one survey found that 70% of dead loggerhead turtles in Moreton Bay, South-East Queensland, had eaten plastic. Plastic bags have also been known to smother coral and other seabed communities.
While more and more consumers are getting comfortable with bringing their non-plastic reusable bags from home when they go shopping, the reality is that many people will still opt to buy reusable plastic bags in-store. Unfortunately, according to Planet Ark, over 200,000 single-use plastic checkout bags are dumped in landfills every hour.
This is where our Reusable Plastic Bags standard comes in. At GECA, we decided that if significant numbers of people were using reusable plastic bags, it was vital that this option was made as sustainable and ethical as possible. We want consumers to have the option of purchasing bags with a high quantity (minimum 80%) of recycled content that are also recyclable.
Reusable plastic bags are environmentally preferable to single-use bags because they reduce the demand for virgin plastic materials and reduce waste going to landfill, thus relieving these environmental burdens. In addition, by being reusable and recyclable, we also hope to reduce the impact on wildlife and their habitats.
From a lifecycle approach, bags certified under this standard are the best option for a reusable plastic bag and far better than single-use bags – when they are properly reused as much as possible and eventually recycled.
The standard sets requirements that aim to provide a benefit by:
• preventing the use of harmful ingredients such as carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive toxins
• requiring significant recycled content
• encouraging recovery, reuse, recycling and responsible disposal of materials and packaging
• preventing harmful emissions to water and soil
• ensuring workers and suppliers through the supply chain can expect fair pay, equal opportunity, and a safe working environment
This standard applies to reusable plastic bags and excludes biodegradable bags, compostable bags and those made of PLA plastics.
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