Plastic Bags Should Be Substitued By A More Environmentally Friendly Product

1437 words - 6 pages

1.0 Introduction
Plastic bags are widely used as an easy medium for packaging items purchased from groceries and shopping outlets. However, the irresponsible use of plastic bags has led to a number of impacts; particularly towards the environment. The negative implications on the use of plastic bags causes conflict where there is a need for the manufacture of plastic bags, especially the usual conventional bags used for shopping, to be reduced or banned. This brings up questions on whether the roles of these plastic bags should be substituted with a product that is more environmental-friendly such as reusable grocery bags as part of the solution for the banning of plastic bags.

2.0 Chemical Background
2.1 Background of Plastic Bags
Plastic bags are made of a type of polymer called polyethylene, which is a flexible synthetic polymer produced from the polymerisation process of ethylene. Ethylene, or ethene is a gaseous hydrocarbon component usually obtained by the splitting of ethane hydrocarbon. Ethene molecules are usually made up of two units of methane molecules of with double carbon-to-carbon bonds. When the monomer units of ethene are polymerised in the presence of catalysts, a long polymeric chain of repeating ethylene monomers is produced.[1]

These long chained molecules can be formed linearly or branched to produce different types of polyethylene components such as high-density polyethylene, or HDPE and low-density polyethylene, or LDPE.[1]

In the production of polyethylene, appropriate additives are added into the polymer for the purpose of preservation of the polyethene, or to customise the polymer component according to its later use. Examples of additives that are added are additives that enable the polymer to sustain towards oxygen and resistance to heat. [2]

The production of plastic begins by converting solid polyethene, initially in the form of pellets, to polyethylene film through the process of blown film extrusion. Polyethylene pellets are first melted, and then transferred through a die unit where the melted polymer is transformed into a circular tube bubble. Once cooled the bubble is destroyed in half at the end of nip rolls. The destroyed bubble later revolves to become rolls of polyethene film.[2][3]

The films are then distributed to be coloured, labeled, cut and sealed into different kinds of plastic bags, which includes being manufactured into shopping plastic bags.[3]

2.2 Background of Re-usable Grocery Bags
Re-usable grocery bags are considered as a substitute for plastic and paper bags. These grocery bags can be produced from a different range of materials, though they are commonly made from fabric such as canvas or woven synthetic fibers.[4] Due to their larger weight and endurance, re-usable grocery bags are manufactured from the use of more resources compared to plastic bags.[5] However, these bags were designed to be used repetitively by consumers and can even be continuously reused for a long period of time...

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