What’s the problem with plastic bags?
How can such a flimsy thing cause so many problems? We are so used to using plastic bags to carry things around that we have taken it for granted… but you should start paying attention to how you use plastic bags… and start finding something else to carry your things – because our environment can’t take more of it.
Here are some interesting facts about plastic bags that you probably didn’t know:
- 160,000 plastic bags are used globally every second!
- 5 trillion plastic bags are produced yearly. Side by side, they can encircle the world 7 times.
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a floating landfill of garbage in the Pacific twice the size of Texas, is mostly composed of plastic.
- In 2008, a sperm whale was found beached in California. It died due to the more than 22 kilos of plastic found in its stomach.
- Plastic will only start degrading after 700 years and will only fully degrade in 1000 years. This means that all the plastic that has ever been produced has not degraded yet.
- Plastic bags remain toxic even after it breaks down. It doesn’t biodegrade, it photo-degrades. It means that after it degrades, it breaks down into smaller and smaller toxic bits of itself – and bleeds and contaminates the environment.
- An average family will use 60 plastic bags on four visits to the supermarket.
- Only 1 to 3% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide.
- Plastic bags cause the death of many marine animals when they are mistaken for food.
- Plastic bags were introduced to supermarkets in 1977.
- In the North Pacific Ocean, there are 6x more plastic debris than plankton.
- Plastic bags are produced using petroleum, natural gas and other chemicals. Its production is toxic to the environment.
How do they end up in the Ocean?
Plastic bags are so lightweight and aerodynamic, that even if we dispose of them properly, they can escape with the wind. They escape from our trash cans, garbage trucks and landfills and they go where the wind takes them – polluting our environment until they finally find their way to the ocean and kill birds and animals.
Just search for “animals eat plastic bags” in Google and you will find hundreds of stories of poor animals dying from suffocation and from eating the plastic bags, mistaking them for food! The problem is that when the animals die and decompose, the plastic bag in their stomachs will just be released into the environment again (it doesn’t degrade for 1,000 years, remember?) – and will probably kill another animal. It’s like a never ending killing cycle!
The Global Response
In response to the problem of plastic bag usage and to acknowledge its negative effects to our environment, more and more countries are banning or regulating the use of plastic bags in supermarkets and retail stores.
Retailers are no longer automatically dispensing plastic bags. Some have started charging for them in the hopes that customers will be discouraged and bring their own reusable bags… and it works! More and more users are now bringing their own bags when they go shopping and this has drastically reduced our usage worldwide.
What can you do to help?
The efforts of governments and retailers will go to waste if we, the consumers, don’t contribute to the effort of reducing plastic bag usage. Yes, you’ve been so used to it. It’s a cheap and convenient way to carry things around. But there are other, better, alternatives. We just need to recondition our minds and make it a habit. Here are some suggestions:
- Start by bringing your own Eco-Friendly bags.
- Reuse and Recycle your plastic bags at home. You can take them to a nearby recycling center.
- Patronize businesses that support the effort to reduce plastic bag usage. Don’t get mad at them for inconveniencing you if they don’t give you a plastic bag.
- Spread awareness by not accepting plastic bags from retailers and reminding them that it’s toxic to our environment.
- Let’s start educating our children about the plastic bag problem so they will continue the efforts and go green themselves.
- If you do have to throw out a plastic bag: knot it before you toss it!!! Tie yourplastic bag into a large, dense knot before tossing it in the garbage. This simple action reduces the number of bags sent airborne by the wind, which inevitably litter our road and waterways.
- Stop using plastic altogether.
Just by remembering to bring your own bag when you go shopping, you’ll be helping our environment in a very big way.