The great plastic debate
Tuesday, 9th May 2017 by Rachel
plastic bag ocean waste

Since the supermarket ban, single use plastic bags have become a bit of an environmental bogeyman. Each week the media offers up a story of fresh havoc caused by plastic waste in our seas. It's distressing to hear about the damage it's doing to aquatic life and ecosystems. For many of you, your weekly veg bag may have become your main source of plastic bags these days and we know they're not popular. But when you start to look at the alternatives, how do thin film plastic bags stack up? Well, quite favourably, actually.

What's the alternative?

When you take into account the whole life cycle, including raw material extraction, manufacture, transportation and ultimate product disposal, plastic bags actually come on top for least impact on the environment. Cotton tote bags bring with them huge environmental implications in the growing and processing of the cotton, and you'd need to use a cotton tote about 170 times before they offered any less of a strain on the environment than it's plastic equivalent.

Unfortunately, there’s currently no substitute for plastic in terms of keeping greens fresh: paper and compostable plastics actually absorb moisture from leafy greens and make them go limp more quickly. Biodegradable plastics or corn starch alternatives are no more environmentally friendly in many respects than plastic. And there’s evidence to suggest that plastic packaging has a much lower carbon footprint than its paper or card equivalent.  Riverford have done some very in-depth research into the environmental impacts of different kinds of packaging which is worth a read if you want to delve deeper.

Reuse first, then recycle

plastic bags

However, it’s not a foregone conclusion and it’s an ongoing debate at GC HQ. Our current stance is that until a viable alternative is available, the plastic bags are our best option. We don't intend for these to be single use bags though, and that's where you come in.

If you return your used bags to collection points we’ll use them again and again.

The smaller clear plastic bags that the farmers use to bag greens are also reusable - our growers at the Dagenham farm will gladly take them, so please bring those back as well.

What’s more, the ones we use to pack your fruit & veg into are made of 100% recycled plastic. It’s also worth noting that Hackney waste services do accept plastic bags in your household recycling bins so that's another option once you've reused them so much that they're completely knackered.

There are lots of plastic alternatives coming onto the market and we’re always keeping an eye on developments so, rest assured, when there’s a suitable and affordable alternative material we’ll use that instead.