Plastic bags are severely damaging the environment, yet people and the government are still not taking any serious actions in banning them or providing their substitute. 100 billion plastic bags are used every year in USA alone. The problem is further exacerbated as developed countries often send their plastic waste to developing countries where recycling or proper waste disposal is already not taken seriously.
How Plastic Bags Damage Environment
Plastic bags are non-biodegradable and may take up to 400 years to decompose! We will not even be living long enough to see even one plastic bag that we used decompose. This is an environmental problem that generations after us will suffer greatly from.
Plastic bags are an unsightly phenomenon that are not biodegradable hence, they just lie in our streets and sewage systems for years and years. Bags may be torn to pieces by storms but then these small pieces are spread throughout the area. These pieces end up in drains and waterways obstructing the water flow. This obstruction causes poor draining and blockage of sewers. Hence, excess water builds up on the streets and roads which is a huge inconvenience for the residents of that area.
An estimated trillion plastic bags are used annually which is a catastrophic amount of littering that is unattractive and an environmental hazard.
Danger to Wild life
Animals both terrestrial and aquatic suffer highly at the hands of these non-biodegradable plastic bags. Animals such as cows die by eating plastic bags that are lying on their grazing grounds. The sadder part is that plastic bags actually cause obstructions in the animal’s intestines that can lead to slow and a painful death. Moreover, these plastic bags have poisonous substances that poison these animals, often which we consume also by eating animal meat.
It is quoted that 100,000 animals, dolphins, turtles, penguins, etc die every year due to plastic bags. What can be more environmentally detrimental than this?
Waste of Precious Resource (Petroleum)
Petroleum is a precious resource that is used in making plastic bags. Not only does this finite resource go in the production of a non-biodegradable product; its prices are also increasing due to high demand and low supply. It is an environmental threat to use a non-renewable source in the production of such a pollutant.
What are some Alternatives to Plastic Bags
Plastic bags are heavy duty, cheap and convenient to use. Finding their substitute is not an easy feat to achieve. However, alternatives and substitutes are possible if the entire community joins hands to decrease the use of plastic bags.
Some people insisted that the use of paper bags instead of plastic bags is an environmentally positive approach. However, it is the opposite as trees are cut to make paper bags and this will also have a negative effect on the environment.
Some alternatives and substitutes for plastic bags are:
Tote bags can be a good substitute to plastic bags while doing grocery shopping. These bags can be made of a variety of cloths such as cotton, calico, recycled PET, jute, etc.
Many countries encourage citizens to use branded shopping bags of that particular grocery store which is made of reusable cloth.
Sandwich bags can be replaced with sandwich bag placemats that fold to hold a sandwich and unfold into a small placemat.
Use glass containers and canisters for storing food.
These are great for storing liquid like milk.
Tax on plastic bags
An effort by Ireland has proved to be successful and has decreased use of plastic bags by 95%. Ireland has imposed a tax on plastic bags and citizens have to pay 20 cents per plastic bag which is a hefty amount!
Unique uses of plastic bags
Many people use old plastic bags as trash bags which is a good use for them. However there are other ways also to re-use plastic bags:
- Wrap up fragile items in plastic bags when travelling
- Stuff pillows with plastic bags instead of feather or cotton fillings.
- You can also make a kite out of plastic bags.
- Braid plastic bags to make a sturdy jump rope
- Bags, shoes and bracelets can all be made from old plastic bags.
The government along with the community members should all come together to promote activities that can lead to less pollution so that the generations after us can also live healthily and happily in it.