Cotton bread bag is becoming mainstream

Amsterdam, 31 October 2018 – The free plastic bag has been banned for a while now, but this is not the case for bakeries. Bread at the bakery or in the supermarket is generally still wrapped in plastic. A family consumes at least one loaf of bread per day. This means that approximately 365 plastic bags are used annually. The Netherlands counts almost 5 million multi-person households. A simple calculation shows that every year about 1.8 billion plastic bags are used. Just for bread. Just for multi-person households. Just in the Netherlands.

But there is an alternative. For a few years now, different sizes of the unprinted bread bag made of organic cotton, designed by Inge Barmentlo of Bag-again” have already been for sale online for a few euros. The bag can also be used for vegetables and fruits and is easy to close with a drawstring. Since two years, a bag marked with the text “Bread” has been available.

The concept of the bread bag has now been taken over by the Albert Heijn supermarkets, which have been selling a variant for a month. Selling the cotton bread bag in supermarkets is making it a mainstream product.

Inge Barmentlo: “I now get more requests from bakeries who want to start selling the bread bag, and I suspect that has to do with the AH-example. Although some pioneers have already been selling our bread bags for some time, I now have the idea that more companies are taking that step and also that the threshold is getting lower for consumers to take their own bread bag into a store or supermarket. I could never have dreamed this would happen when I started two years ago.”

Also read: India will abolish single-use plastics


United Nations advises countries to take measures against plastic

 Amsterdam, June 5, 2018 –– Up to now, there have been no international agreements that compel countries to reduce their use of plastic. The most environmentally problematic form of plastic is single-use plastic (SUP). Despite the lack of an internationally binding agreement, countries have taken measures against SUPs themselves; they recognize the seriousness of the plastic pollution problem, and the issue has likely become intolerable for their citizens.

 Today, on World Environment Day, UN Environment has published an extensive review with an oversight of the measures that 50 nations have implemented up to now. Some of these measures are not effective because governments do not follow up on them.

The report, entitled Single-Use Plastics: A Roadmap, gives a summary of the ten most effective steps countries can take. The UN recommends the following measures to governments around the world:

  1. Target the most problematic single-use plastics
  2. Consider the best actions to tackle the problem
  3. Assess the potential social, economic, and environmental impacts
  4. Identify and engage key stakeholder groups
  5. Raise public awareness
  6. Promote alternatives
  7. Provide incentives to industry
  8. Use revenues collected from taxes on single-use plastics to maximize the public good
  9. Enforce chosen measures effectively
  10. Monitor and adjust chosen measures if necessary and update the public on progress

Investment warning plastic packaging

Amsterdam, 9 May 2018 – For years the plastic industry was considered a safe investment. Good returns were ensured, because worldwide demand for plastic was only increasing. That image is quickly turning around as a result of governments announcing measures against plastic packaging, since plastic is damaging to the (maritime) environment. Moody’s, the leading advice agency for investors, released the rapport Plastic Packaging last month. It states that all impending measures to limit plastic packaging will have direct detrimental consequences for this industry. The companies will become less creditworthy.

Around 3 percent of the world oil consumption is used to make plastic packaging. British Petroleum is already changing their policy. Steve Dale, chief economist at BP, says in an article dedicated to this subject on “We think we’re going to see increasing regulation against some types of petrochemical products, particularly single-use plastics. As a result of that, we have less growth in non-combusted oils than we otherwise would have done.”

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “This is good news. The packaging industry is taking far too little initiative to take responsibility and reduce single-use plastic. Now that the market value of these companies is under pressure, we can expect to see this change.”


Breaking news: EU announces tax on plastic

Amsterdam, January 12, 2018 —First there was a tweet. Gunther Oettinger, the EU commissioner for budget and human resources, wondered whether the European Union should impose a tax on the production of plastic for environmental reasons. Soon after, he gave a written explanation to journalists in — among others — this message. 

The European Commission wants to impose a tax on plastic in the entirety of the European Union in order fight pollution and to make use of the income it would provide. Due to Brexit, however, it has become more difficult to finalize such a measure. Another important reason for the implementation of this proposal is because, as of recently, China no longer imports waste plastic from Europe.

This is important news. 

There are two ways to do something in order to cut the use of plastic in practice, thereby lowering the accompanying environmental damage. The first is to prohibit certain applications of the material, such as the use of microplastics in personal care products. The second is to make plastic more expensive, for example by imposing a levy on production. At the moment, plastic is dirt cheap, which means that the cost of the pollution it causes is not included in the price. Because plastic is so cheap, it is massively used and preferred over other materials on the market. Practically every separate fruit is packaged in it. Single-use plastic dominates, and the subsequent damage — the plastic soup — appears on the front pages of the news more and more often. 

Up until now, producers and politicians maintained an entirely different approach; placing the burden on the consumer. People must be taught that plastic can no longer end up as litter. Already-used plastic must be recycled. Both these strategies leave the annual growth of plastic production undisturbed, and both offer no results. It seems to be an illusion that the plastic cycle can be closed completely (so that plastic doesn’t reach the environment); an entire population can hardly be raised to ensure that everyone neatly separates their waste and always tidies up after themselves.

Commissioner Oettinger does not yet know if the tax will fall on producers or consumers. Either way, the announcement is a milestone. We cannot lose time. By making plastic more expensive, both consumers as well as producers will deal with the material in a different way.

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “We encourage a Europe-wide tax on plastic. This is a step in the right direction. Disposable plastic will be taxed, hopefully suggesting that its heyday is over”.