Sir; Promoting biodegradable carrier bags to retailers as an "ideal solution" (Letters, June 8) is not only misleading, it could encourage litter, damage the environment, and severely restrict existing recycling schemes.
In fact the damage caused by biodegradable waste is a problem now acknowledged in the new EU Landfill Directive ­ legislation that will drastically limit all biodegradables, including paper and board, going to landfill.
The truth is that the principle of biodegradable plastics runs contrary to the basic concept of sustainability because the energy and resources put into manufacturing and distributing biodegradable polymer is deliberately wasted in the decomposition process.
This may be acceptable in limited applications such as bags for home composting and some agricultural films but, for uses such as supermarket carrier bags, biodegradable plastic offers no useful ongoing or sustainable advantage such as re-use, recycling or recovery of energy via incineration, and may actually create difficulties for waste recovery.
The great value of conventional plastic carriers is not only that they are robust, durable, hygienic and safe ­ they are also used and re-used many times and can be recycled afterwards.
With a high inherent calorific value, plastic bags also safely contribute to energy from waste systems, thus helping destroy contaminated or putrescible urban waste that would otherwise create harmful emissions. Such systems, widely practised throughout Europe, reduce waste volumes by around 90% and greatly reduce the use of fossil fuels that would otherwise be needed for heating and electricity generation.
Major UK retailers should by now have received our guidance notes on the environmental benefits of plastic carrier bags. Contact us by email at if you want to know more.
Jim Pugh
Chief executive
Packaging and Industrial Films Association