Plastic bags have been branded among the top environmental pollutants globally. Plastic bags are non-biodegradable and can only photodegraded. This process involves breaking down the plastics into smaller toxic pieces. Yet, as they break down, these particles have adverse impacts on the soil through contamination and may also affect water bodies, thus affecting marine animals when they ingest them. The prevalence of plastic pollution runs throughout almost every part of the world since plastics are found virtually everywhere. Plastics are used at homes, offices, schools, outdoors, and during travels. The world has become accustomed to readily available plastic products, and its availability is a significant source of environmental contamination. Within less than a decade, the human’s overwhelming reliance on plastics has instigated numerous ecological problems ranging from crowded landfills, groundwater contamination, and death of marine animals and sea debris. So why should plastic bags be banned ?
Over 100 billion plastics bags are consumed by Americans every year, which are manufactured by approximately 12 million barrels of oil. Within the same period, the average American family uses over 1500 plastics bags while only 1% of the total plastic bags are recycled, which translates to only 15 bags recycled by the average family out of 1500 (Center for Biological Diversity). The production of plastics increased from 2 million tons in the 1950s to over 400 million in 2018. Approximately 80% of the pollution caused by plastics in the oceans is attributed to land, and over 267 species feel its impact. As a result, over 100,000 sea wildlife die every year due to plastic pollution (Center for Biological Diversity). These plastics bags, which are only in use for approximately 12 minutes before disposal, take more than 500 years to break down to small toxic particles; hence, their longevity is a major factor in the increased environmental pollution.
Throughout their lives, plastics bags cause more losses than benefits. They start as fossil fuels during their production and end up as landfills either on land or in the ocean. The production of plastic bags necessitates the use of fossils fuels, which are the primary causes of the greenhouse effect, making plastics a contributor to global warming. A projection into the future impact of plastics suggests that by 2050, plastics will be responsible for 13% of the total carbon dioxide and will have increased to more than 2.75 billion tons within the same period (Xanthos, Dirk, and Tony 21). Disposable plastics that are typical in fast-moving consumer products are the primary factor that facilitates the growth of the plastic economy. The greenhouse emissions produced during the life cycles of plastics have contributed to global warming and the adverse effects of temperature changes across the globe.
Plastic bags have a long life and lengthy effects on the environment, which spans from manufacturing, distribution, and disposal. The first stage involves pollution through emission of carbon in the atmosphere, and the second phase is when they find their way to retailers who make them readily available for consumers. Most of these bags are used once and disposed of carelessly. Accordingly, 40% of the plastic bags are disposed of in sanitary landfills, where only 14% is collected for recycling, and 14% is incinerated, which is also another source of CO2 emission. This fact makes plastic a unique product that pollutes the environment throughout its life cycle. Therefore, it is vital to find alternative ways of eliminating the demand for plastic on a global scale, as environmentalists warn that they might cause adverse environmental degradation in the future. As highlighted above, plastics bags may take over 500 years to photodegrade, which further increases their damage to the environment. If they complete the process, they only break down into small toxic pieces that pollute the soil, thus, making it unsuitable for the growth of crops. Their biodegradable nature ensures they remain on land for an extended period until rainwater sweeps them towards water bodies, where they cause more devastating impacts.
Plastic bags are significant water pollutants. The majority of wildlife on earth is found in oceans and seas. When the plastic bags enter the water bodies, they are hazardous to these animals since they may ingest them. Animals such as sea turtles, fish, and birds are more vulnerable to ingesting plastics, which may be fatal due to the high levels of toxins in them. Besides, it is impossible for animals to digest the plastics, which causes a high number of deaths attributed to water pollution from such foreign materials in the sea. Plastics are also a risk to large animals such as whales. When fish ingests the plastics, they introduce toxins in their bodies. When human beings consume fish, meat is contaminated with toxins that are transferred from the animals into their bodies. Such concentrations of poisons result in humans developing health complications and diseases. Since fishing is a source of food and income for many people in various parts of the world, water pollution leads to less food for consumption and unemployment for fishers. Therefore, water pollution due to the large concentration of plastics could have both social and economic implications on society.
The first step towards winning the battle against the impact of plastic bags involves creating awareness of the scope of their adverse effects on the environment. Second, people should be encouraged to use reusable shopping bags, and if plastic bags are used, they must be recycled or disposed at designated areas for proper recycling. Third, governments should enact policies to curb the production of single-use plastic bags. However, a ban in one country may not be effective since water bodies run across countries and oceans are shared by multiple continents. The best approach should be the implementation of a global ban on the production of plastics. Governments should encourage firms that produce plastics bags to shift to the production of biodegradable packing backs that are equally effective. A win in the fight against plastic bags will be a vital step towards curbing the impact of global warming worldwide.
The devastating impacts of plastic bags surpass their benefits, which only lasts for less than fifteen minutes. The impacts of these plastics start during their manufacture because producers need fossil fuels, which are the primary causes of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Disposal of plastic bags pollutes the land through toxins, and a more significant impact is felt by marine animals who consume the toxins. The negative implications of plastic bags tough on economic and social aspects globally. As a result, it is necessary to develop strategies intended to conserve the environment and protect it against the threat caused by plastic bags.