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How many carrier bags are there in the house? There are probably some in every room, even the attic and garden shed. They are light, strong water-resistant, and cheap to produce; it’s unthinkable that it could do the weekly shop without one. It’s been estimated that every UK household uses over 300 disposable bags a year. Collectively that’s enough to carpet the entire planet twice over, but the days of the humble disposable bags are well and truly numbered.

All plastic bags and packaging are manufactured from oil; in fact, each year, a twelfth of the wild production wild oil production is used to produce plastics, and over a third of that is used for packaging. The production of these bags generates a huge amount of carbon dioxide. It’s been calculated that if it could have the bag usage in the UK, it could save a quarter of million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic used, disposable bag are now much thinner than they were ten years ago. And because a plastic bag can take a 100 years to break down in a landfill site manufacturers are developing biodegradable disposable bags that break down within two years to water and harmless gases. Not all retailers offer them, though, so if it has to use disposable bags, try and recycle them. Most supermarkets have special recycling facilities for this purpose. A carrier bag made from recycled plastic reduces the amount of carbon dioxide generated during manufacture by two and a half times.

The daily choice of humans affects the environment in far-reaching ways. If a car is used a lot and chose the high-carbon options to watch “High CO2 emissions from shopping.” If choosing a mixture of options, watch “Medium CO2 emissions from shopping.” If a person always chooses the least harmful watch, “Low CO2 emissions from shopping.”

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