Alternatives to Polypropylene Bags – an eco-design project led by ICRC, WFP and UNHCR
CONTEXT and RESULTS
As humanitarian organisations, ICRC, UNHCR and WFP provide critical relief items such as food and other essential commodities to some of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in the world. Each of the three organisations is engaged in the procurement, storage, movement, and distribution of huge quantities, much of which comes in individual packaging. Polypropylene (PP) bags are often used for this purpose due to their low cost and diverse usages. In 2018, a total 6,800 mt of polypropylene bags were dispatched by the three organizations in the course of their life-saving work.
However, there are several challenges in the use of PP bags:
- Plastic bags are distributed to beneficiaries in countries poorly equipped in terms of waste management infrastructure, and with few possibilities of collecting back the bags
- The bags need to be compliant with food-contact specifications and need to be resistant to harsh environments: sunlight and humidity during storage periods.
The three partner organisations are committed to reducing the use of packaging and favour a good management of packaging waste to ideally avoid plastic leakages in the environment and decrease other LCA-monitorable environmental impacts of this single-use material (such as impacts on Climate Change, human health, and ecosystem quality). With such high usage numbers for PP bags, the three organisations have launched this project to find a sustainable alternative to the current use of PP bags in their activities.
Sofies is supporting ICRC, WFP, and UNHCR in this endeavour by managing and piloting the search for the alternative(s).
This project has the following objectives:
- Finding suitable alternative(s) for PP bags that are usable in the various contexts that ICRC, UNHCR and WFP work in, and meet the requirements of beneficiaries, while having comparatively lower environmental impacts.
- Piloting the selected alternative(s) in the field under real conditions of usage to see their effectiveness as replacement for PP bags