Coloured plastic carrier bags. Image credit: Thinkstock

New biodegradable materials could replace plastic bags

While shoppers in England face a 5p charge for each plastic carrier bag they use from today (5th October 2015), OU research highlights work into alternative and more environmentally friendly materials that could potentially replace them.

The OU’s Integrated Waste Systems (IWS) research group is working on an ambitious partnership worth around £250,000 with a UK SME, funded by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to develop a new type of biodegradable single-use plastic carrier bag that is recyclable, biodegradable and will have no harmful effects on plants or animals.

The new charge of 5p for carrier bags in England is designed to reduce the quantity of plastic single-use carrier bags  – and the tonnes of litter associated with them – and encourage people to reuse bags. Dr Carl Boardman, the project’s lead, says: “Currently in the UK we still dispose of the majority of the plastic products we use in landfill sites. The introduction of single-use carrier bag charge in England is a welcome development and follows the success of the policy in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”. The impact of the charge in Wales shows an 80% reduction in plastic bag consumption over the last three years.

The UK Government is committed to investigating the possibility of making biodegradable carrier bags exempt from the single-use charge in future. The results of this research and development are expected within the next year.

In this video, Dr Carl Boardman, explains more about the research.