Plastic Bags - What Are The Alternatives?


An average European uses almost 200 throwaway plastic bags a year. Almost a million tons of plastic bags are produced in the European Union, but only 6 % of them are recycled. Europe’s lawmakers are looking for alternatives to using plastic and reducing the waste and litter that comes with them.

Many countries around the world have been fighting against the use of plastic bags. In some countries, for example China or South Africa, very thin plastic bags are banned. In Bangladesh they clog up the sewers. Last year Italy banned plastic bags that are not made out of organic substances. Some countries have prohibited the use of plastic bags altogether. In the United States, however, there is no real regulation and some supermarkets offer them while others don’t.



In Ireland the government introduced a 15 cent surcharge on plastic bags in 2002. Within a year 90% shoppers of all shoppers started reusing their bags. Millions of Euros earned by the tax have been used on looking for new ways of recycling. In Wales, shop assistants are threatened with a fine if they hand out plastic bags free of charge.

In contrast , experts argue that if shoppers use alternative, stronger bags they must use them very often in order to compensate for more carbon used in production and transport. A cotton bag, for example, must be used over a hundred times to really be environmentally friendly.

Food researchers see another danger. They claim that reusing bags could be a problem because harmful bacteria may be left behind in grocery bags .



The European Union is looking at ways to cut down pollution from plastic bags. Bags made of corn are biodegradable on one side but produce methane gas on the other. Paper bags have been widely used in the United States. While being biodegradable they have a stronger carbon footprint than normal shopping bags. In Europe many shops are going back to paper bags, although environmental experts say they are as bad as plastic ones.




Related Topics


  • average = normal
  • bacteria = small living things; some of them are dangerous and cause diseases
  • ban = forbid
  • biodegradable = material that is changed into bacteria in a natural way and does not harm the environment
  • carbon = chemical substance that exists in coal , oil etc..
  • carbon footprint = the greenhouse gases that you produce when you do something
  • claim = say that something is true
  • clog up = block
  • compensate = balance
  • cut down = reduce
  • earn = get, receive
  • environment = the world around us
  • fine = money that you must pay as a punishment
  • free of charge = without cost
  • grocery = food
  • harmful = dangerous
  • however = but
  • in contrast = on the other side
  • lawmaker = people who make laws
  • litter = waste that you throw away on the ground
  • methane gas = gas that you cannot see but which burns and gives heat
  • organic = produced by living things
  • prohibit = ban, forbid
  • recycle = use again
  • reduce = decrease, lessen, go down
  • regulation = law
  • researcher = a person who studies something and wants to find out more about it
  • sewer = pipe or passage under the ground that carries waste and water away from houses and factories
  • substance = material
  • surcharge = extra cost
  • tax = money you pay to the government which is used for public services
  • threaten = warn
  • throwaway = something you use only once and then throw away
  • waste = unwanted materials that that are left over after use
  • widely = very much