THE BIGGEST retail chain in Slovakia has begun giving its customers biodegradable shopping bags. The chain will gradually replace its traditional plastic bags with new environmentally-friendly bags in all its stores. Other big retailers say they also plan to use such shopping bags in the future.
“The bags contain a material that after some time helps the bags to be decomposed by nature to elements common in the environment,” Tesco’s manager for environmental protection, Vess Barliev, told the ČTK newswire. The bag will decompose to molecules of polymer composed of carbon and hydrogen and, after reacting with oxygen, the by-products of water, carbon dioxide and bio-mass are created, according to Barliev.
The new bags are made from 30-percent recyclable polyethylene, granules from raw materials used in the primary production of oil and an additive that speeds up decomposition, which is assessed at 9 to 12 months. The new bags look quite similar, with just a notice on one side saying that the bag is made from a decomposable material.
Other companies, like COOP Jednota and Ahold, plan to launch environmentally-friendly bags in the future, too.
“This year, COOP Jednota will launch the use of environmentally-friendly bags from materials that will decompose under the influence of light and heat to a structure that will then serve as food for micro-organisms,” the head of the company, Gabriel Csollár, told the ČTK. The Ahold company, which operates the Hypernova and Albert chains, will supply ecological bags to its shops within weeks.
Although planning to distribute the remainder of its old bags, Tesco is already looking forward to using the new ones, not just in Slovakia, but also in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, according to Barliev. Currently, only the retail chains Carrefour, Terno and Tesco still distribute free shopping bags to customers.
Ahold started to charge customers for bags four years ago, because of what it described as environmental concerns.
“Through this step, we managed to reduce their consumption by 70 percent on average,” the company’s spokesperson, Diana Chovancová Stanková, told ČTK.