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Reusable plastic bags most eco-friendly option in Singapore

Next best is single-use plastic bag, instead of one made of paper or biodegradable polymers

Being an eco-friendly shopper in Singapore means opting for and using a reusable plastic bag many times instead of using a cotton one, a new study has found.

Forgot the reusable plastic bag? Then the next best option would be to use a single-use plastic bag, instead of a paper one or one made of biodegradable polymers.

These findings by researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and their colleagues in Finland were published in August in the Journal Of Cleaner Production.

In the paper, the researchers noted that while plastic grocery bags are one of the most common single-use packaging products, other options have been gaining traction. These include single-use bags made of paper or biodegradable plastic, or reusable bags made of cotton or polypropylene non-woven plastic.

But how do they stack up against one another in terms of how environmentally friendly they are here?

The latest study provides the answer, with the researchers modelling the environmental impact of each type of bag based on a host of factors, such as how the bags are made, transported, distributed, collected as waste, treated and disposed of. Especially in Singapore, which incinerates most of its non-recycle waste. 

The production of cotton involves pesticide use, and long-term heavy metals discharge into water. Paper bag production involves generation of liquid waste, noted the authors.

In Singapore, which has a closed waste management system with incineration treatment, using plastic bags - both reusable and single-use types - may be the best option that is currently available, he said.

"This is provided that there is no significant leakage of waste into the environment," Prof Lisak added.

Plastic bags, if not disposed of properly, can contaminate the natural environment and end up in the ocean, where they can ensnare wildlife or be eaten by animals



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