[ID] => 10146
[post_author] => 34
[post_date] => 2018-09-26 09:20:12
[post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-26 08:20:12
[post_content] => In 1966, young Benjamin Braddock, floundering around in his parents’ pool in the hot summer after graduation, was advised to “go into plastics”. It was not a bad idea at the time and, had Braddock been real instead of the character played by Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, he might now have been happily retired after a fulfilling and profitable career in the business.
But now, more than fifty years later, humanity’s long-running love affair with polymers seems to be on the wane. In recent years, a number of countries have tried to stem the rising tide of the use of plastics – and the problems related to their disposal. Charges or outright bans on lightweight plastics shopping bags have been introduced in several countries around the world, starting in Bangladesh, which imposed a total ban in 2002 after serious flooding was blamed on Dhaka’s sewers being blocked by such bags.
A likely tipping point occurred in 2017, with the airing of the final episode of the BBC television series Blue Planet II, which highlighted the role of plastics pollution and microplastics in the world’s oceans in killing a wide range of marine life. This single programme has had a massive impact by raising awareness of plastics pollution around the world and led rapidly to plans to ban single-use plastics items.
HEADING FOR LANDFILL
So, if consumers are pushing for less packaging, why is it that bulk liquids shippers are increasingly wedded to single-use flexibags – basically just big plastics bags – that are difficult to dispose of at the end of their very short life?
After all, shippers using smaller packagings have taken onboard the need to re-use, remanufacture and recycle their drums and IBCs; a global collection and recycling system exists, which often sees old packagings shredded and used to make pallets for the next generation of packagings.
That process fits with the idea of the ‘circular economy’ and helps shippers – not least chemical producers – meet their commitment to sustainability, something that is often a requirement imposed by their representative trade association, if not their customers.
But, with that focus on sustainability, it seems bizarre that some producers are making growing use of flexibags. These are essentially very large single-use plastics bags, with little possibility of re-use. Anecdotal evidence suggests that only around 25 per cent of them go for recycling, with the rest sent to landfill or incineration. And the recycling route is becoming increasingly difficult, particularly since China imposed a ban on the import of used plastics material for recycling.
Flexibags also suffer regular leaks – one shipping line admitted to HCB that a failure rate of up to 10 per cent is expected, and even deemed acceptable. This is one reason why flexibags have never been accepted for the carriage of dangerous goods, although even more innocuous liquids can cause severe problems, particularly if a hard-to-clean product leaks aboard a ship or across a main road, as has happened frequently in the past.
And yet some chemical manufacturers continue to use flexibags, despite these shippers’ stated commitment to sustainability and the clear indication that flexibags cannot be regarded as a sustainable product. Indeed, their use seems to be increasing, with forecasts suggesting the number of flexibag shipments will top one million in 2020.
The primary attraction of single-use flexibags, of course, is their relatively low cost. Disregarding the potential for leaks and the problems of disposal, that makes them very interesting for personnel within chemical companies charged with reducing the cost of shipping non-hazardous products.
The issue is that flexibags are only lightly regulated, certainly in comparison to alternative packaging methods. Flexibags compete directly with tank containers – more expensive certainly, but they last for 25 years or more. And at the end of that long life, owners must ensure that the tanks are properly recycled – and have that process transparent and documented.
A similar approach to flexibags would be for them to have an end-user certificate describing how the empty bag is to be disposed of; otherwise, how can a shipper that claims to be observing sustainability targets show that it is doing so in practice? How can contributing to plastics pollution in the seas and on land be seen as ‘sustainable’?
[post_title] => Sustainability: Bin the bag
[post_status] => publish
[comment_status] => open
[ping_status] => open
[post_name] => sustainability-bin-bag
[post_modified] => 2018-09-20 12:24:19
[post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-20 11:24:19
[post_parent] => 0
[guid] => https://www.hcblive.com/?p=10146
[menu_order] => 0
[post_type] => post
[comment_count] => 0
[filter] => raw
Sustainability: Bin the bag
Single-use plastics bags are on their way out all around the world, so why are some shippers wedded to the idea of using them for carrying bulk liquids?