YouGov found 85% of shoppers believe all plastic bags should be both recyclable and biodegradable.

The poll found 65% of people believed the Government should exempt biodegradable bags from the upcoming 5p plastic bag charge to be introduced in September and provided free of charge.

Almost all Britons (98%) reuse their plastic carrier bags in some way, either for shopping or for bin liners. 59% of shoppers would prefer to shop at supermarkets which provide biodegradable bags as standard.

The survey was commissioned by Symphony Environmental Technologies, a specialist in plastic technologies and plastic bag manufacturer. Plastic carrier bags can be manufactured with biodegradable technology to be both reusable and recyclable.


Symphony CEO Michael Laurier said: “Despite the 5p charge, a large number of carrier bags will be supplied, and many of them could get out into the open environment where they could lie or float around for decades.  It is not good enough for them to be recyclable – they must also be biodegradable in the open environment (not just in compost).”

However, the effectiveness of biodegradable plastic bags has been questioned by supermarkets and by Defra. Although they break-down effectively in the presence of sunlight and oxygen many which end up in landfill will not.

Tesco had previously used biodegradable bags in 2011, but it removed them from use after studying the total lifecycle of the bags.

The original Environment Audit Committee’s Plastic Bag Inquiry in 2014 urged the Government to make ‘biodegradable’ plastic bags exempt from the charges, however the Government rejected the suggestion.

On the rise

Some vegetable-based carrier bags are currently compostable but may not break down in open environments. The Co-operative introduced compostable bags in January 2014.

Laurier said Symphony’s plastic bag technology turned plastic carrier bags into biodegradable materials if left in the open, breaking down as fast as twigs and straw.

A recent report from the resource body WRAP found plastic bag use in the UK had increased for the fifth year running, with almost nine billion bags used in 2014. However, in countries which had introduced a carrier bag charge, including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, plastic bag consumption had fallen considerably. 

You can catch up on the full story of the plastic bag charge using edie’s timeline.

Matt Field

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