Plastic Bags

Myths: Fact or Fiction

Degrade in Landfill Myth

The Single Use Myth

Recycling

Paper vs. Plastic Bags


Paper vs. Plastic Studies

Reusables Greener?

Types of Bags

Litter: The Facts
Public Health

Canada Update

Bags Around the World

The Oil Myth

Made in Canada
Ireland's Bag Tax

Degrade in Landfill Myth

Fiction:  Bags that go to landfill should degrade, and not last thousands of years.

Fact:  No. In a properly engineered landfill, nothing is meant to degrade. Bags of all materials - cotton, paper, plastic and reusables - will not decompose.

The Facts:
  • This myth is based on a common misunderstanding of the purpose of landfills and how they work.
  • No bag – reusable or conventional plastic bag – will degrade in landfill.

  • Modern landfills are designed as low-oxygen environments so that the waste cannot decay. This environment helps to prevent decomposition which produces harmful greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide, as well as leachate, which pollutes ground water and soil.

  • Even with strong preventative measures in place, fugitive emissions from landfills are a concern. In Canada, according to Environment Canada, landfills are still responsible for 20% of national methane emissions.

  • Methane is a greenhouse gas that is more harmful than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential because it traps 21 times more heat than a molecule of carbon dioxide.1

More Detail  

How Landfills Work

How Landfills Work

1  http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/compost/index.htm
2 http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/localauth/lats/documents/latsfaq-02.pdf
3  Bans on Plastic Bags Harm the Environment - WSJ.com

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