Biodegradable Shopping Bags Aren't So Biodegradable After All

iStock.com/timsa
iStock.com/timsa

Shopping in a sustainable manner can be a confusing task, even for those who consider themselves educated, eco-friendly consumers. We’re told to use canvas tote bags at the grocery store, but those come with an environmental catch. Even materials that seem like they’d be easy to recycle—like yogurt containers and plastic bottle caps—can be a minefield of “do's” and “don’ts.”

Further complicating matters, a new study has revealed that “biodegradable” plastic bags didn’t actually degrade after three years in the natural environment, according to The Guardian. Researchers from the University of Plymouth in the UK tested four types of plastic bags marked as biodegradable and one conventional plastic bag as a control. Some of the biodegradable bag samples were buried in soil, some were left in open air, and others were submerged in seawater to represent conditions after the bags are thrown away by consumers. After nine months, the four biodegradable bags left in open air had disintegrated into plastic fragments; in seawater, only the bag type labeled compostable disintegrated completely. At the end of the study, all but the compostable bag were still able to hold 5 pounds of groceries after being submerged in soil or seawater. The findings were published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Imogen Napper, the study's lead author, said she was shocked by the findings. “After three years, I was really amazed that any of the bags could still hold a load of shopping. For a biodegradable bag to be able to do that was the most surprising,” Napper said in a statement. “When you see something labeled in that way, I think you automatically assume it will degrade more quickly than conventional bags. But, after three years at least, our research shows that might not be the case.”

If you’re looking for a better alternative, compostable bags might be the way to go. Still, researchers concluded that none of the bags, including compostable ones, had deteriorated sufficiently enough to offset the negative effects of littering.

Co-author Richard Thompson, who serves as head of the university’s International Marine Litter Research Unit, called for more consistent guidelines regarding what can be labeled as biodegradable. “Our study emphasizes the need for standards relating to degradable materials, clearly outlining the appropriate disposal pathway and rates of degradation that can be expected,” Thompson said.

[h/t The Guardian]

Amazon’s Big Fall Sale Features Deals on Electronics, Kitchen Appliances, and Home Décor

Dash/Keurig
Dash/Keurig

If you're looking for deals on items like Keurigs, BISSELL vacuums, and essential oil diffusers, it's usually pretty slim pickings until the holiday sales roll around. Thankfully, Amazon is starting these deals a little earlier with their Big Fall Sale, where customers can get up to 20 percent off everything from home decor to WFH essentials and kitchen gadgets. Now you won’t have to wait until Black Friday for the deal you need. Make sure to see all the deals that the sale has to offer here and check out our favorites below.

Electronics

Dash/Amazon

- BISSELL Lightweight Upright Vacuum Cleaner $170 (save $60)

- Dash Deluxe Air Fryer $80 (save $20)

- Dash Rapid 6-Egg Cooker $17 (save $3)

- Keurig K-Café Single Coffee Maker $169 (save $30)

- COMFEE Toaster Oven $29 (save $9)

- AmazonBasics 1500W Oscillating Ceramic Heater $31 (save $4)

Home office Essentials

HP/Amazon

- HP Neverstop Laser Printer $250 (save $30)

- HP ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed OCR Scanner $274 (save $25)

- HP Printer Paper (500 Sheets) $5 (save $2)

- Mead Composition Books Pack of 5 Ruled Notebooks $11 (save $2)

- Swingline Desktop Hole Punch $7 (save $17)

- Officemate OIC Achieva Side Load Letter Tray $15 (save $7)

- PILOT G2 Premium Rolling Ball Gel Pens 12-Pack $10 (save $3)

Toys and games

Selieve/Amazon

- Selieve Toys Old Children's Walkie Talkies $17 (save $7)

- Yard Games Giant Tumbling Timbers $59 (save $21)

- Duckura Jump Rocket Launchers $11 (save $17)

- EXERCISE N PLAY Automatic Launcher Baseball Bat $14 (save $29)

- Holy Stone HS165 GPS Drones with 2K HD Camera $95 (save $40)

Home Improvement

DEWALT/Amazon

- DEWALT 20V MAX LED Hand Held Work Light $54 (save $65)

- Duck EZ Packing Tape with Dispenser, 6 Rolls $11 (save $6)

- Bissell MultiClean Wet/Dry Garage Auto Vacuum $111 (save $39)

- Full Circle Sinksational Sink Strainer with Stopper $5 (save $2)

Home Décor

NECA/Amazon

- A Christmas Story 20-Inch Leg Lamp Prop Replica by NECA $41 save $5

- SYLVANIA 100 LED Warm White Mini Lights $8 (save 2)

- Yankee Candle Large Jar Candle Vanilla Cupcake $17 (save $12)

- Malden 8-Opening Matted Collage Picture Frame $20 (save $8)

- Lush Decor Blue and Gray Flower Curtains Pair $57 (save $55)

- LEVOIT Essential Oil Diffuser $25 (save $5)

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Thailand National Park Officials Mailed Trash Back to Litterbugs

Spiderstock/iStock via Getty Images
Spiderstock/iStock via Getty Images

If hefty fines aren't enough to stop people from littering in Thailand's national parks, officials hope that good, old-fashioned guilt-tripping will do the trick. As The New York Times reports, Khao Yai National Park in central Thailand responded to a recent littering offense by mailing abandoned trash back to the litterbugs who left it there.

The responsible party left behind a tent filled with trash after camping overnight in Khao Yai. In Thailand, littering in a national park is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $16,000 fine. The park officials took a less conventional approach to this particular crime. After cross-referencing equipment rental forms with a discarded prescription bottle, they were able to track down the offenders and mail them their forgotten garbage.

The clear bag of trash came with a note. “You have forgotten some of your belongings at the Khao Yai National Park,” it read. “Please let us return these to you.” Varawut Silpa-archa, Thailand's environment minister, referenced the incident in a Facebook post, writing, “I will pick up every single piece of your trash, pack them well in a box, and mail it to your home as a souvenir." In addition to getting a package of trash in the mail, the unidentified campers have also been banned from staying in the park overnight.

Officials tasked with protecting the environment have seen firsthand the damage litter can cause. Plastics can take centuries to break down, and in that time they pose a serious threat to wildlife. Trash that builds up in places where people seek refuge can also be bad for their mental health. A 2015 study found that seeing litter on a beach counters the restorative qualities of being in nature.

[h/t The New York Times]