It turns out that these biodegradable plastic bags may not be as good for the environment as initially thought.
An unpublished study, published in the Environmental Science and Technology, Biodegradable bags were still capable of transporting purchases after being submerged in soil and water for three years.
For the study, the researchers spent three years testing five different types of shopping bags currently offered by popular supermarkets – biodegradable, oxy-biodegradable, compostable and high density polyethylene.
"These materials were exposed in three natural environments; in the open air, buried in the ground and submerged in sea water, as well as under controlled laboratory conditions, "the report explained.
The bags were checked at regular intervals, with the level of deterioration monitored.
Each of the bags disintegrated into fragments after exposure to air for nine months, however, three of the materials – including biodegradable bags – were still intact after more than three years buried in the ground or left in the sea.
In fact, the bags not only remained intact but can still carry almost 2 pounds of groceries.
The compostable sacks were the most environmentally friendly when left at sea, breaking into larger pieces after three months in the marine environment.
However, they could still be found on the ground after 27 months – although no maintenance could be maintained.
Researchers questioned whether some of these products should be marketed along with claims that they can be "recycled back into nature" or "plant-based alternatives to plastic."
The study also highlighted how the term "biodegradable" may confuse consumers who believe that the bag will simply disappear if it is thrown away. However, researchers insist that there is an argument against the development of biodegradable or compostable.
"Collectively, our results showed that none of the bags could be used to show any substantial deterioration over a three-year period in all environments," the report says.
"It is therefore not clear that oxy-biodegradable or biodegradable formulations provide deterioration rates sufficiently advanced to be advantageous in the context of marine litter reduction compared to conventional bags"
The research comes after Woolworths, Coles and other retailers banned the use of plastic disposable bags in July last year.
The National Retail Association (NRA) estimates that 1.5 billion single-use plastic bags were eliminated in the first three months after the self-imposed ban.
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