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Are plastic bag bans helping our environment?

Grocery stores are banning plastic bags in hopes of saving our environment. Since 2007, over 240 cities and counties have passed laws that ban or tax plastic bags. However, many fail to consider the negative impacts that plastic bans have on the environment. In order to fully understand the best solution, we must consider where ocean pollution comes from, and look at the environmental impact of plastic bans. 

Where does ocean pollution come from? 

Before supporting the ban of plastic bags to protect our oceans, consider where the majority of ocean pollution comes from and research the amounts and types of plastic that result in trash. Which countries are most responsible? Countries in Asia and South America that have not developed proper solid waste and recovery systems contribute most to plastic waste into oceans. Lack of proper waste systems often result in plastic that flows from rivers into our oceans. 

A September 2015 study by the Ocean Conservancy found that 60% of global marine debris originates from China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s (EMF) New Plastics Economy Report, the United States and Europe combined only contribute approximately 2% of plastic leakage into oceans. In fact, a recent study in the North Pacific Ocean looked at an estimated 42,000 tons of mega plastics, and found that fishing nets accounted for 86%. 

What happens when we ban plastic bags? 

Plastic bag bans result in people using more paper bags and cotton totes, which are not better for the environment. Did you know the carbon footprint of a paper bag is 4x higher than a plastic bag? Research shows that plastic bags have more sustainable benefits than paper bags from a manufacturing, reusability, solid waste, and generation standpoint. Visit our recent blog post to learn more about the environmental impact of plastic versus paper.

Rebecca Taylor’s study, Bag Leakage: The Effect of Disposable Carryout Bag Regulations on Unregulated Bags, found that after California’s 2016 ban on plastic shopping bags, the sale of large trash bags that contain more plastic skyrocketed, so approximately 30% of plastic eliminated by the ban came back in the form of garbage bags. In addition, cities that participated in the ban saw a surge in the use of paper bags, which resulted in an estimated 80 million pounds of extra trash per year.        

Striving for a circular economy

People often fail to consider the full lifecycle of plastic products, and fail to research the negative impacts that plastic bans have on the environment. According to the U.S. EPA Waste Management Hierarchy, the most environmentally preferred strategy for waste management is source reduction and reuse. This means using less resources to produce and the ability to be reused. Thin, lightweight plastic bags that use less resources and materials are often referred to as single use products. However, plastic bags are in fact reused everyday by many people, which is why California saw a large increase in the purchase of trash bags after they initiated a ban on plastic shopping bags. Visit here to learn more about a circular economy for plastic in which it never becomes waste. 


Innovative and Sustainable Flexible Packaging: March Spotlights

Each month, we will be spotlighting award winning innovative and sustainable plastic packaging from The Flexible Packaging Association’s 64th Annual Achievement Awards Competition! In summary, 73 packages were submitted into this year’s competition, across a number of categories, for a total of 206 entries. Thirty packages were honored with 48 Achievement Awards in several categories.

Notable trends and features of this year’s package entries include: 

  • Package formats using bio-based and compostable materials that help to increase post-recycled content and reusability.
  • The transition of products previously packaged in rigid containers to flexible packaging, which helps to reduce material usage.
  • Packaging that makes it easier for consumers to shop, transport and dispense from.

Check out our March spotlights listed below to learn about the benefits of each package, the manufacturers behind the creation, and brands that are using these packages for their products.

AeroFlexx Liquid Packaging 

AeroFlexx received the Highest Achievement Award and Gold Awards in the following categories: Expanding the Use of Flexible Packaging, Packaging Excellence, Shelf Impact, Sustainability and Technical Innovation. It is used for products by major brands such as Mighty Mutt Dog Shampoo and Conditioner, and Dude Body Wash Natural Castile Soap for Men. 

AeroFlexx is revolutionizing the liquid packaging industry! It is currently the only flexible package that provides features and benefits superior to that of a conventional bottle. The packaging uses at least 50% less plastic than a bottle and features a clean, controlled one handed dispensing functionality. Best of all, the pouch self-seals when done, so no more messy spills or wasted shampoo or body wash! To learn more about the manufacturer, visit their website here!

Paqui Tortilla Chips Pillow Pouch 

Printpack’s pillow pouch for Paqui Tortilla Chips earned a Gold Achievement Award in Shelf Impact. Amplify Snack Brands redesigned the packaging of their Paqui tortilla chips to create a striking brand block on the shelf and a convenient packaging option for shoppers. The pouch features vibrant contrasting colors and interesting visual effects, created during the printing process, making it easy for shoppers to find. To learn more about the manufacturer, visit their website here!

Pride Lands Premium Bloom Soil

Pride Lands Premium Bloom Soil by ProAmpac received a Silver Achievement Award in Shelf Impact. This durable and sustainable bag works to protect your soil. It also features an overcoat and UV light-cured ink system that works to protect the integrity of the graphics long after the package is purchased. This makes it a great choice for sellers and shoppers! To learn more about the manufacturer, visit their website here!

The Ultimate Fish Stick™

Trident Seafoods packaging  for The Ultimate Fish Stick™ by PPC Flexible Packaging earned a Silver Achievement Award in Printing. The Ultimate Fish Stick™ features sharp images and clean colors, making it easy for shoppers to find. To learn more about the manufacturer, visit their website here!     

Visit this link to learn more about the Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards Competition!


Find Your Local Flexible Packaging Recycling Location