Sunday, August 12, 2007

Land to grow food? Or land to grow crops to make plastic bags?

No comments:
It turns out that the Bristol Blogger prioritises growing corn to make plastic bags over using the land to grow food for the hungry. Blogger likes the plastics and associated petrochemical and agrochemical industry enough to be in favour of making corn starch biodegradable plastic bags available to contain food waste in Bristol’s brown bin recycling system. This much is revealed by the debate on his site:

Blogger has taken quite a panning in the blog comments following his posting criticising me and Southville’s Green Councillor Charlie Bolton for wanting people to wrap their food waste in the already available newspaper, or indeed other waste paper that finds its way into your house whether you like it or not.

Blogger has yet to be joined by anyone else to defend making the plastic bags available – a position just like Knowle Lib-Dem Councillor Gary Hopkins whose one week old e-petition favouring the introduction of these bags has to date just one signature on it – his own!! And the only positive discussion comment to date is Cllr Hopkins' alone, with several negative ones.

Neither the Bristol Blogger or Cllr Hopkins (or Bristol City Council itself) seems to have properly weighed up the additional environmental impacts that will result from the introduction of these bags. This impact is very well hinted at by one of the discussion comments (copied below) on Cllr Hopkins e-petition, posted by Josie McLellan:

I can't help thinking it is a little irresponsible to promote the use of these bags without a full audit of their environmental impact. This would have to to take into account: 1. The resources used in the production and transportation of the bags, esp. water for irrigation, the oil used in fertiliser manufacture, production and shipping, and the chemicals used to stabilise the plastic. 2. The decrease in food production caused by growing the corn to make the bags. 3. Potential biodiversity losses involved in growing large quantities of corn. 4. Whether or not the corn used to produce the bags is GM free. 5. What, if any, by-products are given off as the bags biodegrade. 6. Any extra expense involved in composting waste wrapped in these bags. E.g. would the machinery have to be adjusted? It is hard to imagine that the environmental impact of these bags would compare favourably to using unwanted newspaper (e.g. the Bristol Observer) to wrap food

If the bags are introduced and people use them instead of or as well as the newspaper/other waste paper already in their homes, then the impact of the bags is added to that of the paper.
What we really need to do to be truly green with our food waste is to reduce then eventually remove the need for a collection system altogether (no lorries and no newspaper or plastic bags to contain waste) by building up household and neighbourhood composting. We are currently a long way from this yet however, with a vocal minority, yes minority (including the Bristol Blogger), having a go at the brown bin system and sometimes recycling itself – these people are hardly likely to be inclined to take full responsibility for their own food waste by composting it.