©Image Source/Matton

Plastic bags lead a double life

Posted on 13 April 2016.

In Southwark, South London, plastic bags do not end up in landfill. Through the Bag2Bag programme, they are collected, recycled and distributed to the residents as refuse sacks.

Eight billion plastic bags are discarded in England every year. Manufactured in seconds and used on average for just 30 minutes – the time needed to pack and bring your groceries home - they take between 400 and 450 years to degrade in nature and pose significant environmental problems. These include the consumption of fossil fuels during manufacturing, and in particular ocean pollution where plastic waste can destroy certain ecosystems. So until they are no longer in use, it is important to rethink our habits and find innovative and sustainable solutions for recycling them.

Collecting and recycling plastic bags is a real challenge for local authorities. To address this issue, Veolia devised the Bag2Bag program as part of the services it provides to Southwark Council where the group operates since February 2008.

The principle is simple. Plastic bags are deposited by residents at a collection centre and then reprocessed by CeDo, one of the biggest manufacturers of disposable products and household items in the UK, with over 30 years’ experience recycling plastic film. In 2013, the brand launched Saved From Landfill, a range of garbage bags made from plastic waste.

Once transported to the CeDo site, the plastic bags are shredded into granules, washed, extruded and then blown into plastic film to form new recyclable refuse sacks. These are then distributed free to residents of Southwark, creating a circular economy loop that saves resources, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and avoids difficult-to-eliminate pollution.

Only three months after its launch in 2015, the Bag2Bag program has already recycled 1,000 tonnes of plastic bags - which have been made into 500,000 refuse sacks! Veolia hopes to offer the program to other local authorities in the UK – and why not even extend it worldwide?