LONDON (July 27, 12:15 p.m. ET) — The British Environment Agency has temporarily withdrawn its report that said single-use polyethylene grocery bags have a lower carbon footprint than alternative paper or reusable bags.
The agency said the report, “Lifecycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags,” was temporarily withdrawn while a legal query is resolved.
The report is still accessible in the public domain via the Internet. It shows that re-use of bags rather than the material of which they are made per se is the critical factor in reducing environmental impact – and so-called “green” bags may perform badly in a comprehensive lifecycle assessment.
In particular, according to the report, a cotton bag would have to be used at least 131 times to ensure that it has a lower global warming potential than a conventional “single use” lightweight PE carrier bag that is not reused. Paper and compostable bioplastic bags also show higher global warming potential than the conventional bag.