Plastic bags are the cheapest most convenient way to carry groceries. But the convenience poses a danger to the planet. Many people use a plastic bag once or twice at most. About 1.8 billion bags are used and discarded in America every week. These bags end up in landfills.
But why are plastic bags bad for the environment?
Once plastic bags are thrown into the trash bin they often end up as deadly waste in landfills and the ocean. Here they turn into toxic debris that lasts in the environment for thousands of years to come.
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Why Are Plastic Bags Bad for the Environment?
More and more plastic bags continue to be used around the world. Currently, between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used each year worldwide.
The more plastic bags we use the more harm they cause to humankind, animals, and the environment.
Related article: Facts About Plastic Bags
Effects of plastic bags on environment
There are quite a number of effects of plastic bags on environment. For starters, plastic bags are one of the most common types of litter worldwide. When plastic bags pile up they end up blocking local drainage systems causing untold havoc. For instance, in the floods in Bangladesh in 1988 and 1998, and frequent flooding in Manila is believed to have been caused by blockages caused by this litter.
There is a huge pile of plastic debris in the North Pacific Ocean caused by a build-up of plastic bags and other types of plastics. This patch, popularly referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is estimated to be twice the size of Hawaii.
Studies show that 80% of all the debris found in the ocean starts from a land-based source. This is mainly the plastic bags from our trash bins.
Related article: Ways to Reduce Plastic Use
Impact of plastic bags on humans
As plastic bags decompose, they leach toxic chemicals. If they end up in oceans and other water bodies, these toxins end up in our drinking water posing serious health hazards to populations.
While plastic bags can be reused, they are hardly recycled. They either end up in landfill sites or are shipped to Asia, where workers working in deplorable conditions cherry-pick trash looking for plastics that can be melted down and reused there.
Not only are such practices a human rights violation, but also the toxic open-melting methods used pose a huge threat to human health.
Plastic bags harming animals
Plastic bags are harming animals by the dozens. Thousands of birds die every year due to ingesting substantial amounts of plastic bag remnants. At least 260 other species of animals are also at risk of ingesting or getting entangled in plastic bags.
Most marine animals mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and feed on them. Sea turtles are in danger of becoming endangered due to the mass ingestion of plastics. These animals eat so many plastic bags that their stomachs have no room for actual food, leaving them in danger of starvation.
Other dangers of plastic bags on animals is suffocation and strangulation from becoming caught in plastic bags. Dolphins, seals, sharks, flamingos, seagulls, pelicans, and other animals and birds have been found dead due to getting stuck in plastic bags.
Another major impact of plastic bags on the environment is that they degrade into smaller pieces and get eaten by aquatic organisms, small fish, and jellyfish. The toxic chemicals from the plastic waste then enters the food chain increasing concentrations as larger fish feed on smaller ones and other animals feed on the fish – including human beings.
What We Can Do about the Plastic Bag Problem
Knowing why are plastic bags bad is not enough. We all have to do something about it. Think of the animals, the humans, and the environment being damaged by our plastic bag addiction.
We clearly need to put an end to plastic bags, or at least try. Here’s how you can help this happen:
Use reusable bags
There are lots of good quality, affordable reusable grocery bags in the market that you can buy and say goodbye to plastic bags. You can buy a fabric bag made from cotton or a jute bag. Remember to get several reusable bags and keep them in your handbags and car so that you can be sure to have one whenever you leave the house.
Give out the plastic bags you already have
If you already have a lot of plastic bags at home give them out to thrift stores often in need of clean plastic bags.
Clean up the oceans
There’s already so much plastic bag trash in our oceans. While it may be virtually impossible to remove it all now, you can still help by taking part in voluntary beach cleanups that happen on beaches across the world. By doing so, you will save countless lives by reducing the animal and environmental impacts of plastic bag waste.
Educate family and friends too
Now that you can answer the question “Why are plastic bags bad for the environment?” you can also educate others on the dangers of plastic bags. People need to know the truth about plastic bags if they are to stop using them. Encourage your friends and family to buy reusable bags and use them instead of plastic bags. Use eco-friendly wrapping paper to wraps gifts for your friends and family. Talk to your neighbor about plastic bags waste. Any small difference you make to ending plastic bag use will make a huge difference to the planet.
Why Plastic Bags Should Be Banned
Other than making it easy for you to get your groceries home, plastic bags have no other positive impact in the world. However, they cause so many issues in the world. From killing animals to polluting the environment to putting our lives in danger, plastic bags deserve to be banned.
It is the high time that we all make an effort to end the plastic bag menace by first banning plastic bags in our lives before all governments can follow suit!