“Be Green”, “Be Environmental”. Slogans like this are posted all around the world. Charity groups also have been promoting this idea for years. But have we been doing this? Do we really know why we are doing this?
Every once in a while, government give out orders banning shops and markets from providing plastic bags to customers, but this doesn’t last for a long time. Plastic bags are very popular, because they are cheap, strong, easy to bring around and convenient. But have we ever thought of what will this do to our environment?
Are plastic bags harmful to earth? It turns out that all the free plastic bags we get at shops and grocery stores have a much greater impact to our environment than we thought. They little the landscape, kill wildlife and poison our environment. How are plastic bags harmful to earth? Plastic bags litter the landscape. More then a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, and each year more and more bags are ending up littering the environment. Once they are used, most bags go into landfill. Although plastic bags are recyclable, and in some markets they encourage customers to recycle their used bags into a bin, the truth is that only 1% of plastic bags are actually recycled worldwide. When they become litter, plastic bags find it’s way into our waterways, parks, streets, beaches and streams. If they were burned, they give off toxic fumes into the air. Plastic bags also kill wildlife.
There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of plastic bags found floating in oceans around the world. About 100,000 animals such as dolphins, whales and penguins are killed every year because of these plastic bags. A lot of animals eat these plastic bags, mistaking them as food, and then choke or gets strangled by these plastic bags. Some animals were dissected to find out what caused their death, and veterinarian found plastic bag remains in their stomach. Thus, plastic bags lying around will harms innocent animals. Plastic bags also poison our environment. One of the worst environmental effects plastic bags have on the earth is that they are non-biodegradable. It takes around 400-450 years for a single plastic bag to decompose. No living human can ever witness the decomposition of plastic bags. While plastic bags are decomposing, small amounts of toxins sinks into the soils, lakes, rivers and oceans, causing what eat and drink poisonous.
I know what you are thinking. “Then what would I use instead of plastic bags?” There are actually other bags we can use to replace plastic bags, such as reusable bags or ecofriendly bags. Plastic bags are replaceable, and we can replace it with reusable bags or ecofriendly bags. Reusable bags such as fabric bags or tote bags can replace plastic bags. Using fabric bags or totes are the best way to replace plastic bags. These reusable bags are larger in size compared to plastic bags, which allows them to hold more things, and larger handles makes it easier to hold them. These reusable bags are also slowly becoming more fashionable, this way we can use it for other purposes too. Although they do cost a lot more then paper and plastic bags, in the long run, reusable bags will make the cost worthwhile.
We can also replace plastic bags with a more ecofriendly bag such as paper bags. Plastic bags may seem more practical than paper bags in many ways. They tend to be more durable, take up less space, and can be reused more often. We would wonder, then why are we rejecting them? Despite their many benefits to us, plastic bags will eventually cause harm in a lot of ways. Paper bag is a good replacement for plastic bags. Although the process of making paper bags is lot longer and uses up a lot of energy, it the long run it doesn’t poison the environment. Paper bags can be decomposed. Paper bags also won’t leave al the harmful toxins in the ground that plastic bags will. So, while you are in grocery stores, if you happen to be without a shopping bag, choose paper over plastic.
Now we all know how terrible plastic bags are for the environment. But are there any countries around the world doing anything to ban plastic bags? Actually, there are a few countries around the world that banned plastic bags. One of the closest to us is Taiwan, which have been banning plastic bags since 2000. In the 1990s, Taiwanese authorities did a research and approximated that 70,000 tons of plastic bags were used per year. More than half of the plastic bags come from markets. Eventually the excessive use of plastics in Taiwan began to cause trouble for the environment. In 1997, Taiwanese government was finding it difficult to recycle all of the used plastic bags the citizens were generating. By 2000 the Taiwanese government was determined to take action, and they did this by banning the free distribution of plastic bags throughout Taiwan. The government split this plan into two stages.
The first stage of the plan started in March of 2000, government distributed plastic bags to all the state owned facilities, companies, military bases, schools, hospitals and government-run stores and restaurants. In March of 2001, the second stage of the plan is on and running, government supplied plastic bags to supermarkets, department stores, fast food chains, restaurants, convenience stores and households. This policy has been showing positive results. Especially in disposing waste, if households, restaurants, schools wanted to dispose waste, they have to use the ones government gave or else they will be fined for the violation. Many countries, including Australia, Ireland, Italy, South Africa and India have similar policy as Taiwan.
Now you are told how harmful plastic bags can be to the environment, you can do your part by replacing plastic bags with fabric bags and tote to help out earth. Change starts with you, and slowly we can make a positive impact on the environment.