facebook twitter linkedin2 pinterest google-plus instagram envelope checkmark arrow grid phone cross

Retail Plastic Bags – What are the Alternatives?

In the last decade, we’ve seen increasing legislation worldwide, against the use of polythene bags based on their perceived impact on the environment. With levies now in place in both Wales and Northern Ireland, and another about to be introduced in Scotland next October, we’ve created a quick round-up of just some of the alternatives to polythene and their pros and cons.

We’ll continue to update this as new products become available, but here’s our starter for 10!

Retail Plastic Bag Alternatives

PLA (Polylactic Acid)

More commonly known as corn starch. It’s derived from plant based materials, is sustainable, biodegradable and relatively cheap to produce.

It can be perceived as cheap looking. It’s brittle, it gives off methane when breaking down, and takes up areas of land that could be used for food production. The brand Keenpac use for this is Mater-bi and they’ve been making great strides in improving the quality/look of the PLA.


Coming from plant based cellulose (mainly trees), this material is sustainable and relatively cheap (although not compared to poly). Paper can be recycled providing any finishes are also environmentally friendly.

Transport costs and therefore CO2 output can be higher, as paper is bulkier than poly.


Derived from sustainable cotton, these materials are strong and durable. They’re not as cheap as poly but will last multiple times.
Current research puts the CO2 footprint of this type of bag much higher than that of poly.

Polythene Additives

The addition of mineral additives such as EPI or D2W to the masterbatch helps the polythene break down much more quickly.
Poly additives play no part in helping the material to ‘bio-degrade’ which is when natural organisms help in the breakdown of the product. They simply speed up the ‘degradation’ process, which is where the material breaks down naturally without environmental help.

Environmental Accreditations

What do they really mean?
There are a huge number of different environmental schemes, accreditations and logos in the packaging industry. In fact, there are so many they can become quite confusing, especially for consumers. Here are some of the most common ones.

FSC: is an international, non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world’s forests.

Carbon Trust: is a not-for-profit company providing specialist support to help business and the public
sector boost business returns by cutting carbon emissions, saving energy and commercialising low carbon

EPI: is a supplier of oxo-biodegradable plastic additive technology.

d2w: is the brand name for Symphony’s oxobiodegradable plastic additive technology.

Carbon neutral: A provider of carbon reduction and carbon neutral programmes.

ISO 14001: Environmental Management System standard.

PEFC: International is an umbrella organisation that endorses national forest certification systems developed through multi-stakeholder processes and tailored to local priorities and conditions.

Retail Packaging News

Retail Plastic Bags

FSC, PEFC – What Does It All Mean?

FSC is an abbreviation for the Forest Stewardship Council. FSC is dedicated to promoting economically viable, socially beneficial and environmentally appropriate management of forests around the world. They are a non-governmental, international organisation. The need for trustworthy timber product labelling and concerns about deforestation caused FSC to be founded in 1993. Rainforest Alliance, the Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the WWF and many important players in business and industry are known to be supporters of the FSC.

The Use of Colour in Product Packaging

Colour is an important part of our everyday lives. Our heart sinks when we see a brown envelope on the doormat; children get over-excited when they see the golden arches of McDonald’s and no matter how fast an F1 car goes around the track, we can always spot the Ferrari! So what makes colour so important in packaging, and how do we as packaging specialists ensure it’s correct?

Read More

How to Maintain Green Ideals in a Cost-Driven Market

In an age of economic and environmental pressure, an ever-increasing conundrum for retail packaging buyers is that of how to maintain green ideals in a cost-driven market. When it comes to making a straight choice between materials that are better for the environment versus cost, the question then arises; is there a ‘best of both’?

Read More

The Packaging Glossary

Our A-Z of All Things Packaging….

Read More

More Retail Packaging…

Packaging Brand Awareness | Sport’s embrace of retail packaging
Facing the packaging challenge for global retail
The Retail Packaging Planner
Premium Packaging: reinforcing your brand messaging
Retail Plastic Bags – What are the Alternatives?
Independent Retail Packaging
The Growing Trend of Gender Neutral Toy Packaging
Manufacturing Industry On The Slow Road To Economic Recovery
Plastic Carriers Bags (Polythene) made simple
The Importance of Retail Packaging
History of Paper Packaging & Paper Carrier Bags
Retail Product Packaging Suppliers – Keenpac
Minimalist Retail Packaging
Stepping out of the Retail Demographic Comfort Zone
Packaging and Branding
Retail Packaging – The Paper Carrier Bag Guide

Article Categories

Bespoke Packaging
Brand Packaging
Jewellery Packaging
Luxury Packaging
Online Packaging
Packaging Creative
Packaging Design Ideas
Packaging News
Packaging Solutions
Point of Sale Packaging
Retail Packaging
Sustainable Packaging

View all articles