One aspect of the marine plastic crisis that’s so far escaped widespread attention is the poly bag problem. Almost every item of clothing gets wrapped in one of these clear plastic bags the moment it leaves the production line. The vast majority of them end up in landfill or worse.
When you buy a Patagonia product on Surfdome between 16th March and 16th June, you’ll be taking part in a trial initiative called Plastic Cutback. The product you receive won’t be wrapped in a clear plastic bag, which in turn won’t end up leaking into the environment, as so many of these bags do.
80 billion items of clothing are sold a year, and almost every one of these items is at some stage wrapped in a poly bag. These bags can’t be recycled curbside, which generally means they don’t get recycled at all.
72% of plastic still winds up either in landfill or escaping into ecosystems. For poly bags that figure is as high as 90%.
And yet these bags do serve a purpose: without their protection countless items would be damaged and thrown away, with potentially even worse environmental consequences. Meanwhile biodegradable bags bring complications of their own, often biodegrading too soon (to the detriment of the product inside) or too late (to the detriment of the environment).