Effects of Plastic bags on environment

Published: 25th March 2009
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Every once in a while the government here passes out an order banning shop keepers from providing plastic bags to customers for carrying their purchases, with little lasting effect. Plastic bags are very popular with both retailers as well as consumers because they are cheap, strong, lightweight, functional, as well as a hygienic means of carrying food as well as other goods. Even though they are one of the modern conveniences that we seem to be unable to do without, they are responsible for causing pollution, killing wildlife, and using up the precious resources of the earth.

About a hundred billion plastic bags are used each year in the US alone. And then, when one considers the huge economies and populations of India, China, Europe, and other parts of the world, the numbers can be staggering. The problem is further exacerbated by the developed countries shipping off their plastic waste to developing countries like India.

Here are some of the harmful effects of plastic bags:

Plastic bags litter the landscape:
Once they are used, most plastic bags go into landfill, or rubbish tips. Each year more and more plastic bags are ending up littering the environment. Once they become litter, plastic bags find their way into our waterways, parks, beaches, and streets. And, if they are burned, they infuse the air with toxic fumes.

Plastic bags kill animals:
About 100,000 animals such as dolphins, turtles whales, penguins are killed every year due to plastic bags. Many animals ingest plastic bags, mistaking them for food, and therefore die. And worse, the ingested plastic bag remains intact even after the death and decomposition of the animal. Thus, it lies around in the landscape where another victim may ingest it.

Plastic bags are non-biodegradable:
And one of the worst environmental effects of plastic bags is that they are non-biodegradable. The decomposition of plastic bags takes about 1000 years.

Petroleum is required to produce plastic bags:
As it is, petroleum products are diminishing and getting more expensive by the day, since we have been using this non renewable resource increasingly. Petroleum is vital for our modern way of life. It is necessary for our energy requirements - for our factories, transport, heating, lighting, and so on. Without viable alternative sources of energy yet on the horizon, if the supply of petroleum were to be turned off, it would lead to practically the whole world grinding to a halt. Surely, this precious resource should not be wasted on producing plastic bags.

Dangers to Sea Life:

Plastic bags are now amongst the top 12 items of debris most often found along coastlines ranging from Spitzbergen in the north to the Falklands in the south.

Animals and sea creatures are hurt and killed every day by discarded plastic bags, a dead turtle with a plastic bag hanging from its mouth isnt a pleasant sight but mistaking plastic bags for food is commonplace amongst marine animals. Plastic clogs their intestines and leads to slow starvation. Others become entangled in plastic bags and drown.

Because plastic bags take hundreds of years to break down, every year our seas become home to more and more bags that find their way there through our sewers and waterways. Every bag thats washed down a drain during rainfall ends up in the sea every bag thats flushed down a toilet, ends up in the sea every bag thats blown into a river will most likely end up in the sea.

Various alternatives to Plastic bags:
1. Use biodegradable bags made from fabrics.
2. Ladies can fold a cotton bag or two in to their purses which can be used to quench their sudden urge for shopping.
3. Nylon bags can be used and reused several times.
4. Donate old news papers and magazines to small scale institutes that cut these old papers in to paper bags and packets.
5. Use a wicker basket. (They can make a fashion statement today.)
6. Educate the local retailers on the ill effects of use of plastics.
7. Insist your local retailers to use plastic bags of thicker variety if at all he has to use.
8. Offices can distribute canvas bags as New Year gifts instead of diaries and other sweet nothings.
9. Better still buy a foldable shopping trolley. When you can buy a stroller for your new born this is not impossible you see.

Reference: HealthOnclick

Video Source: Youtube

Emma Morris on September 13, 2011 said:
Its great that supermarkets have now stopped giving out plastic bags automatically, particularly with single items that could be carried. Some shops charge for bags and others refuse to give them altogether which encourages people to either not use them or reuse their old ones which means the damage to the environment can be dramatically reduced.

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