hanging from the branches, flying in the air, stuck in corners racing along with the vehicles on the road are – as we all can see – PLASTIC BAGS. This wonder material of the 20th century has invaded every aspect of our lives; it is all over the place messing up the streets and parks, clogging up the drains and gutters. These plastic bags or shoppers as they are commonly called are available in all sizes, shapes and colors, and because of their lightweight, flexibility and low cost they are used and cast off freely. Today people from all walks of life use plastic bags mainly because of their easy availability and convenience. Their use is so widespread that it is a wonder as to how people ever managed to do anything without them. There are a variety of bags available and they are put to different uses. The grocer packs most of the foods, grains, vegetables, fruits etc into clean transparent plastic bags, which keep the food in hygienic condition and even adds a touch of glitter to them.
Apart from making it convenient for the consumer to buy them, these pre-weighed and clean packages help in saving time and energy for the buyer. Other items like clothes, toys, shoes, electric items, magazines are all pre-packed in plastic bags before being sold. In the home front students and office goers prefer to pack lunches in plastic bags saving the effort of carrying and washing lunch boxes. The housemaids use these bags to carry food from their places of work to their home. The milk and bread men pack their goods in plastic bags before delivering them. Deep freezers are stocked with food stored in plastic bags. The plastic carry bags and plastic garbage bags too have become an indispensable part of our lives. Garbage packed in a plastic bag and then disposed of, keeps our homes free of flies and insects while a shopping spree becomes more convenient and fun when these disposable plastic bags are around to carry all the bought items. Manufactures too find these bags very effective to advertise their products and use it for this purpose very freely. This is one side of the story, looking at the other side – what happens when we are through with these bags? How do we get rid of them? We throw them out but where do they go? How are they disposed? Come to think of it. …What does happen to plastic bags after use? After coming into our homes they are either thrown in garbage bins or left around, from where these bags fly away with the wind, destroying the beauty of nature and destroying the beauty of man-made structures in towns and cities. These plastic bags can be seen dangling from trees, electric wires, poles, balconies of houses and wherever they land, creating an eyesore, and acquiring them from such high up places becomes a cumbersome task, for the municipality. Unobserved about 10 million plastic bags are thrown away everyday as waste.
One day while leaving Pine Bluff, Arkansas, traveling down Highway Sixty Five North an exciting idea came to mind. I have been at this place several times and still enjoy going. It is about a forty five minute drive, depending on how fast you are driving. This particular place that I will describe tells about the location and the wonderful food served. First of all, this place is located East, one ...
These bags cause blockage in the drainage and the sewerage system of the city causing water logging, germination of bacterial and water borne diseases, and spread of mosquitoes, etc. There are about 80 diseases caused by water borne germs, and only one piece of plastic is enough to block a drain causing water logging which in turn becomes a breeding ground for bacteria that cause these diseases. It has been noted that in the developing countries like Pakistan these bags are used as mobile toilets. Due to their easy availability, light weight and non- leaking nature, the ignorant people in the villages use these bags to relieve themselves and leave them in the fields to rot, completely unaware of the hazard that will be created in time to come. According to researchers plastic degenerates slowly, their degeneration time could be anytime from twenty to a thousand years and as time passes the plastic lies somewhere in between ‘complete preservation of structure and complete loss of structure’. In other words all plastics sooner or later break down into small pieces, leaving behind plastic-chunks or plastic-dust as residue. These chunks and dust are not biodegradable as their molecular structure is too large for micro-organism to swallow.
... that take up to 1000 years to decompose. Parts of the plastics seep down into the soil and water and eventually get transported ... to the environment. Bibliography “Advocacy For Animals.” Advocacy For Animals Plastic Bags and Animals Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2013. & ... risk. Leaving millions of tons of plastics in landfills is not only an environmental hazard, but is a huge waste of ...
This characteristic of plastic causes serious environmental and health problems. The IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) has found that plastic bags have harmful effects on the soil, water and air. In the fields these plastic bags when deposited in high quantities cause soil infertility. The accumulation of plastic prevents the sunlight from entering the soil thus destroying the beneficial bacteria, so necessary for soil fertility. The acidic combination present in plastic, after a period of time disturbs the chemical formula of the soil, again causing loss of fertility. Since the plastic bags are picked up from the garbage and recycled, they tend to retain a lot of bacteria which are difficult to destroy, which in turn contaminates the food it will hold, causing ill health. The burning of plastic in temperatures less than 800 degrees Celsius in an open space creates noxious fumes such as hydrogen cyanide and other poisonous gases which cause air pollution resulting in skin, and respiratory problems and also certain kinds of cancer. Plastic wastes when dumped in or thrown into rivers, ponds or sea have disastrous effects on the species living underwater, and a lot of marine life is lost due to this. Listed below are some health hazards on land, and sea.
Hazards on land…
Plastic waste blocks drains and gutters, stopping the flow of rain water and sewerage, causing an overflow which becomes the breeding ground for germs and bacteria causing many diseases. The toxic smoke produced while burning plastic kills thousands each year. Workers and people living near a plastic or resin factory are prone to certain kinds of cancer and birth defects. Plastic bags that fly and land in agricultural land retard the growth of the crops by wrapping itself around the plants. Plastic waste that lie on the soil for long stop the passage of oxygen causing soil infertility. Domestic animals like cows and goats are often found dead after swallowing bits of plastic that gets mingled with the grass they eat.
Perhaps one of the most commonly questions in the past, is now rarely heard by consumers. Four out of five grocery bags in the US are now plastic (Reusablebags.com). However, the answer should not be merely plastic, the real answer is neither. Plastic bags are very harmful for the environment, and paper bags even more so. The best alternative is a reusable bag, which can save thousands of plastic ...
Hazards in the sea or coastal areas…
There are approximately 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in each square mile of our coastal area. More than one million sea birds and approximately 100,000 sea mammals die each year after ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic debris. Some marine life has been found with plastic fragments in the stomachs and plastic molecules in their muscles. Turtles, dolphins and other such marine creatures often mistake small plastic bags for jelly fish after following them and develop intestinal blockade which often lead to their death. It is surprising that amongst the world full of the plastic users, very few are aware of the harmful effects of plastic even though environmentalists are busy creating an awareness of the hazards of plastic. Schools too are participating in educating the children about plastic hazards. Many countries have banned the use of plastic bags and many are in the process of doing so. With all this going on, the menace of plastic bags seems to be ever increasing. Certain statistics, listed below will show us
the amount of plastics we use and discard.
~~ 12 million plastic bags are handed out to shoppers in Britain every year. ~~ 10 million plastic bags are disposed of by Bangladesh nationals every year. ~~ 6 billion plastic bags are thrown away by Australians every minute. ~~ The use of plastic in India has more than doubled in the last 20 years. It has increased from 1.8 million tons to about 5 million since 1995-96 up till now.
These are the statistics from some of the countries only. If we add up the plastics used all over the world the amount of plastic used and discarded will be enormous. Since plastics non-bio-degradability is creating serious environmental and health problems and something should be done about it.
Curtailing or banning the use of plastic bags will help and so will the application of the environmental R’s. These R’s are used in a certain order to indicate the best ways to conserve natural resources. The correct order is: Reduce
The first R stands for Reduce.
This means that there should be a reduction in the use of plastics; Conservation in this regard should be practiced. Whenever possible more items in bigger packaging should be bought. Paper and other biodegradable bags should replace the plastic ones.
As time goes by, the situation with our planet becomes worse. People are the main cause of the already damaged environment and unfortunately a lot of them do not even realize that they harm their own home. One of the biggest problems that have deteriorated is the plastic bag problem. It is a growing menace to humans and the consequences of it can be very bad. For example, plastic bags are made of ...
The second R stands for Recycle.
Plastic can be recycled but to recycle them, plastic will have to be disposed of properly. These bags should be knotted up and then thrown into garbage bins from where they can be picked up by proper sources, and used for recycling.
The third R stands for Reuse.
As far as plastic bags are concerned they should be used as many times as possible thus curtailing their use.
Cited above are the many advantages of the use of plastic bags along with its many disadvantages. It is now up to individuals to weigh both the qualities and see for themselves what will outweigh the other. If we all do our little bit to keep our environment clean and healthy, we will be successful in handing a clean and a healthy environment to our next generation, which they so rightly deserve. Plastic bags are the preferred mode of packaging for many products in the markets of today. This is due to the fact that they are light, inexpensive and easy to produce. They are also utilized in agriculture for cultivating crops in controlled environments besides being used in the manufacture of protective material. However, plastic is made of synthetic polymers that constitute the non-biodegradable and inorganic material like Styrene (Aquinus, 2010).
The nature of the plastic material makes its disposal a challenge that leads into pollution. This research looks into the dangers brought about by the use of plastic bags and possible solutions to the problem. Dangers of plastic bags
Plastic bags present various forms of dangers and hazards to human beings and the environment. To start with, pose a hygiene problem as their poor disposal leads to blockage of sanitary and drainage systems. This accelerates cases of water borne illnesses amongst people in the neighborhoods (Mathias, 2009).
Moreover, the lack poor disposal of plastic bags affects agricultural activities as it hinders water penetration into the soil besides interfering with the formation of manure. To add to this, the photo-gradable plastics are easily broken down by light into chemicals that are harmful in nature (Bushnell, n.d).
The production of the bags results into environmental pollution as chemicals emitted into the atmosphere interfere with the water and rainfall cycles. The manufacture of the bags is also viewed as wastage of natural resources as it depletes the quantities of petroleum that could have been potentially helpful in other areas (Vera, 2010).
Plastic is extremely bad for the environment. It is one of man's worst inventions. Plastic is non-biodegradable. This means that waste plastic cannot be turned into any other substance that is eco friendly. Although tonnes and tonnes of plastic are burned in the most advanced incinerators, all that remains in plastic. It doesn't change into anything else, as many other materials do. Hence plastic ...
Animals are also negatively affected as consumption of plastic. Poor disposal results in death and suffocation for aquatic animals. Marine life is affected by plastic bags disposed into the sea, for instance
the case spotted at the North of the Arctic Circle as well as the South close to the Falkland Islands (Moorthy, 2010).
Studies indicate that plastic bags constitute 10 percent of waste deposited at the U.S coastline. Furthermore, the increased deposit of plastic bags at one location leads to increased toxicity as they breakdown into petro-polymers. In the long run, the toxic substances attributed to these plastic bags end up in the food chain as they are transformed into microscopic particles (World-Wildlife-Fund-Report, 2003).
Over the years, debate has been raging on whether to ban the use of plastic bags.
People opposed to the ban argue that the perfect remedy would be to educate people on proper plastic bags disposal. Plastic bag are compared to the other household accessories such as needles in that parents teach children on the usage and should therefore user education is imperative as well (Vera, 2010).
This idea is however limited by the fact that educating people is a challenging task. In India for example, a family unit has been found to use an estimated 10 kilogram every year. Countries such as Bangladesh and China have prohibited the use of plastic bags to mitigate the effects they have on the environment. Other countries in Europe such as Ireland have imposed heavy taxation on the utilization of plastic bags while in Africa, Rwanda banned the use of the material (Erikson, 2010).
The efforts to prohibit the use of these bags have been limited by the commercial gains attributed to the plastic bags that reduce support for laws against them. This is in addition to the observation that developing countries make up a major market for the bags from the developed world. In order to counter the problems brought about by the bags, several measures need to be taken. Technology has been used to come up with degradable plastic bags from the combination of plastic with starch or the photogradable type of plastic. Moreover, the plastic bags can be broken down by use of chemicals so that they dissolve for utilization as protective wax.
... causes of death to marine animals (Harbor keepers,2008). Up to one hundred thousand marine animals or more die each year from eating plastic bags which are mistaken ... the public’s awareness to the harmful affects that a plastic bag impose on our environment. Applying this would mean to get consumers involved ...
However, this type of plastic is limited by its high cost of production as well as the fact that it cannot be recycled. Another way of alleviating the plastic bag program is through the adoption of other forms of more eco-friendly ways of product packaging and transportation (Moorthy, 2010).
This also implies that manufactures should be involved in solving the problem by providing better methods of disposal for their plastic-packaged products. The challenges posed by plastic bags can also be mitigated through sustainable consumption that can be facilitated by recycling of used plastic (Bushnell n.d).
It is also important that people be educated and informed on the negative effects of the plastic bags in order to refrain from poor disposal and littering. In conclusion, the plastic bags are a convenient method of packaging and transport for products but one that is hazardous to the environment, animals and marine wildlife as well as human beings. Its effects include death, pollution and waterborne diseases. This problem should therefore be solved through methods such as recycling and use of degradable plastic. Issues related to environmental hazards posed by plastic waste have been assessed by several committees. The problem created by the use of plastics bags is primarily due to shortcomings in the waste management system. Indiscriminate chemical additives pose environmental problems including choking open drains, ground water contamination, etc. Plastic itself is a chemically insert substance, used world –wide for packaging and is not per-se hazardous to health and environment. Recycling of plastic, if carried out as per approved procedures and guidelines, may not be an environmental or health hazard.
What are Plastics?
Plastics are polymers i.e. large molecules consisting of repeating units called monomers. In the case of plastic bags, the repeating units are ethylene. When ethylene molecules are polymerized to form polyethylene, they form long chains of carbon atoms in which each carbon is also bonded to two hydrogen atoms.
What are plastic bags made of?
Plastic bags are made from one of the three basic types of polymers -polyethylene- High Density polyethylene (HDPE), Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), or Linear Low-Density Polyethylene (LLDPE).
Grocery bags are generally of HDPE, and bags from the dry cleaner are LDPE. The major difference between these materials is the degree of branching of the polymer chain. HDPE and LLDPE are composed of linear, un-branched chains, while LDPE chains are branched.
Are plastics harmful to health?
Plastics are not intrinsically toxic or harmful. But plastic carry bags are manufactured using organic and inorganic additives like colourants and pigments, plasticizers, antioxidants, stabilizers and metals.
-Colourants and pigments are industrial azodyes which are used to give bright colour to plastic carry bags. Some of these are carcinogenic and likely to contaminate food stuffs, if packed in these carry bags. Heavy metals such as Cadmium contained in pigments can also reach out and prove to be a health hazard. -Plasticizers are organic esters of low volatile nature. They can migrate to food stuffs as a result of leaching. Plasticizers are also carcinogenic. -Antioxidants and Stabilizers are inorganic and organic chemicals to protect against thermal decomposition during manufacturing process. -Toxic metals like cadmium and lead when used in manufacturing of plastic bags also leach out and contaminate the food stuffs. Cadmium when absorbed in the low doses can cause vomiting and heart enlargement. Lead exposure in long term may cause degeneration of brain tissues.
Problems posed by Plastic Carry Bags
Plastic bags if not disposed properly may find their way into the drainage system resulting into choking of drains, creating unhygienic environment and causing water borne diseases. Recycled /coloured plastic bags may contain certain chemicals, which can leach to the ground and contaminate soil and sub-soil water. Units not equipped with environmentally sound techniques for recycling may create environmental problems due to toxic fumes generated during reprocessing. Some of the plastic bags which contain leftover food or which get mixed up with other garbage are eaten by animals resulting in harmful effects. Because of the non-biodegradable and impervious nature of plastics, if disposed in the soil, they could arrest the recharging of ground water aquifers. Further, to improve the properties of plastic products and to inhibit degradation reactions, additives and plasticisers, fillers, flame retardants and pigments are generally used, these may have health impacts.
Strategies for Plastics Waste Management
Many states have prescribed thicker bags. The inflow of plastic bags into the solid waste stream would be substantiality reduced, as rag pickers would be keen to segregate the same for recycling purposes. Thin plastic bags have little value and their segregation is difficult. If the thickness of plastic bags is increased, it would make plastic bags expensive and check their usage. The plastic Manufacture Association could also be involved in the waste collection and disposal system using the principle of extended prouder responsibility.
Littering of Plastic carry bags, water bottles, plastic pouches have been a challenge for municipal solid waste management. Many hilly States (Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim, West Bengal) have banned use of plastic carry bags/bottles in tourist places. In Himachal Pradesh the State Government of has taken a cabinet decision to ban plastics in all over the State since 15.08.2009 under the HP non- biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act, 1995.
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The Central Government too, has made assessment of the extent of damage caused to environment by plastic waste in the country by constituting Committees and a Task Force which studied the issue and made recommendations.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests issued the Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules 1999, and amended it in 2003 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for regulating and managing plastic carry bags and containers. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has notified 10 standards on biodegradable plastics.
Alternatives to Plastic
The use of jute or cloth bag as alternatives to plastic paper bag should be popularized and prompted through fiscal incentives; however, it needs to be noted that paper bag nvolve cutting of trees and their use is limited. Ideally bio-degradable plastic bags alone should be used and research work is on to develop biodegradable plastics. (Courtesy: Press Information Bureau) Single-use bags, both paper and plastic, represent a huge threat to the environment. This threat is not only related to the sheer volume of them ending up in landfill, but also to the resources needed to produce, transport and (occasionally) recycle them, and the emissions resulting from these processes. Single-use plastic bags are also well known for their interference in ecosystems and the part they play in flood events, where they clog pipes and drains. Envirosax presents a fashionable and practical solution to the problem of disposable plastic bags (each Envirosax potentially replaces the use of 6,000 bags during its lifetime), so please make a move in the right direction and help to reduce the impact of plastic bag waste worldwide bybuying a reusable bag today! Plastic bag facts
•Approx. 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year. That’s more than 1,200 bags per US resident, per year. •Approx. 100 billion of the 380 billion are plastic shopping bags. •An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags. •Only 1 to 2% of plastic bags in the USA end up getting recycled. •Thousands of marine animals and more than 1 million birds die each year as a result of plastic pollution. •The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean. •Plastic bags are often mistakenly ingested by animals, clogging their intestines which results in death by starvation. Other animals or birds become entangled in plastic bags and drown or can’t fly as a result. •Even when they photo-degrade in landfill, the plastic from single-use bags never goes away, and toxic particles can enter the food chain when they are ingested by unsuspecting animals. •Greenpeace says that at least 267 marine species are known to have suffered from getting entangled in or ingesting marine debris. Nearly 90% of that debris is plastic. •Americans consume more than 10 billion paper bags per year. Approximately 14 million trees are cut down every year for paper bag production. •Most of the pulp used for paper shopping bags is virgin pulp, as it is considered stronger. •Paper production requires hundreds of thousands of gallons of water as well as toxic chemicals like sulphurous acid, which can lead to acid rain and water pollution. •The Danger of Our Plastic Addiction
•The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (GPG) is the largest floating landfill in the world (Daisy Duma), at twice the size of Texas. It is made up of garbage and broken down plastic waste particles (Lindsey Bloomberg).
Studies show that about 80% of the GPG is composed of plastic and comes from land (Bloomberg).
In 1997, the oceanographer Charles Moore, who first discovered GPG, said that once plastic bags are in the ocean they remain there for hundreds of years (Bloomberg).
The use of plastic bags has become a serious problem that society must address immediately. They have caused a lot of damage to our daily lives and are detrimental to the environment. Some countries, such as Italy, Bangladesh, China, Ireland, and Rwanda, and the city of San Francisco, have banned the use of plastic bags due to the resultant environmental destruction. We must do the same nationally and the use of plastic bags in retail stores should be banned because they cause environmental destruction and make the United States dependent on Middle Eastern oil. •Plastic bags do not degrade; they just break into smaller and smaller pieces that lead to serious consequences for our land and marine environments. Most plastic bags are used only once and then discarded in the landfill. Although some people may reuse or recycle plastic bags, all bags eventually end up in the trash or scattered in the environment.
According to the New Internationalist, the world uses an estimated one million plastic bags every minute; 150 bags per year for every person on earth (New Internationalist).
We do not know for sure how long it takes to break down plastic bags, but according to Environmental Magazine, it takes 500 or more years to break down and will become litter that clogs storm drains and threatens marine wildlife (Environmental Magazine).
Plastic is made from long chains of hydrocarbon molecules that even bacteria cannot breakdown. In fact, nothing can eat plastics. So the plastic that we continually create with new bags will be with us in some form for hundreds of years and although individual plastic bags do not take up too much space, as we continue to accumulate them, this adds up to a very large problem. •Plastic bags threaten wildlife. A study from Animal Today shows an autopsy was done on a Bryde Whale stomach and discovered a huge ball of plastic debris and other garbage. This particular animal is a filter feeder and it swallows small fish in his kill along with floating plastic bags (Animal Today).
Some animals die from ingesting plastic bags, or become disabled. Studies have shown that hundreds of thousands of animals and marine life each year are affected and they suffer a painful and slow death when they accidentally ingest plastic bags (reuseit.com).
Animal’s also mistaken nurdles for food. Nurdles are small white plastic pellets, which can be melted down for the production of plastic bags (Peter Fimrite).
Plastics consumed by animals can remain in their system and when they die and their bodies decompose into the soil, the plastic they ingested remains as a danger to other wildlife. Other animals, such as birds, seals, and sea turtles, get plastic bags wrapped around their necks, which also leads to terrible and painful death. The use of plastic in society has a huge impact on wildlife. •The Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year caused serious damage to society. For example, the tourist industry, the fishing industry, damages to the shorelines, long term economic loss, habitat loss, as well as the loss of both marine and human lives (Plater, Zygmunt J.B.1).
Jacqueline Savitz, a marine scientist and climate campaign director of Oceana, said that oil spills are extremely harmful to marine life and could damage fisheries by injuring marine organisms’ systems related to respiration, vision, and reproduction (Washington Post).
This damage initiates a chain reaction that affects marine life for years. A good example is the twenty-year collapse of the fishing industry from the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska (Plater).
Ironically, the plastic bags that would have been created from that quantity of oil are long discarded years ago but the damage due to oil extraction and transportation remains years later.
The environmental destruction caused by oil extraction takes years for the ecosystem to recover and additional costs to clean up far in excess of the benefits of using plastic bags. •Plastic bags pollute the water and air through the process of manufacturing and shipping. But similarly, the process of manufacturing and transporting them uses up resources and creates global warming emissions (plasticpledge.org).
Even bags that are made of corn and are biodegradable cause greenhouse gas emissions during production and degradation (Plastic Bag Pollution).
According to reuseit.com, that litter accounts for 8 billion pounds of plastic bags entering the U.S. waste stream every year (reuseit.com).
And their disposal ends up clogging drains and gutters, causing water and sewage to flood and eventually become contaminated with bacteria that leads to diseases (Reuseit).
•Plastic bags release toxic pollution that affects our health. These chemicals are found in thousands of household items and have been linked to birth defects, learning disabilities, cancers, liver damages, and reproductive problems (New Internationalist).
We do not realize plastic bags contains deadly chemicals when we use them, however, these toxins leech back into our environment and ground water supplies which we drink every day. The consumption of these toxins cause health problems to both humans and other living organisms, thereby disrupting the balance of our ecosystems.
•Most plastic bags are made out of petroleum oil. The extraction of oil is an environmental disaster in its own right but since a very large portion of the world oil reserves is in the Middle East, this also props up intolerant dictatorships and is used to fund Islamic terrorists. “It has dragged us into wars which have killed thousands, costs us hundreds of billion dollars and puts us at the mercy of terrorist nations” (plasticpledge.org).
Our use of plastic bags is funding intolerance and oppression as well as paying our enemies. According to Food Democracy, it takes about 430,000 gallons of oil to produce 100 million plastic bags, and the U.S. goes through 380 billion of them a year. If we ban the use of plastic bags, then we can decrease our dependency on foreign oil and reduce the environmental destruction caused by this industry.
•Plastic bags are not cheap. The true cost of plastic bags is not included in the price paid for plastic bags by the retail store. Retailers argue that plastic bags are cheaper than paper and therefore prefer them over alternatives. This only includes the internal cost of producing a bag from raw materials. The price of gas, processing, shipping, and profits is all included in the initial price of the plastic bag. However, the external cost of environmental destruction, litter cleanup, and waste disposal are not included in this price. According to GreenEcoServices, the city of San Francisco spends an estimate of $8.5 million on cleanup and disposal of littered plastic bags and California roadways spends $16 million on cleaning up litter on freeways (GreenEcoService.com).
We do not take into consideration that the true costs of plastic bags include both internal and external costs.
The external cost includes the loss of resources from extraction; environmental destruction due to extraction processing, and shipping source materials; the ultimate waste disposal and environmental destruction from the bag after it is used; and health effects from lingering toxins in the environment. These external costs are born by society and are not added to the cost that a retailer pays for the bag. If they were, we certainly would not be using plastic bags today. Industry tends to charge only for their internal cost and society pays for the external cost, through health problems, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and dead animals, while the manufacturers get wealthy. This is representative of our entire disposable culture where everything is one-time use or disposable and is thrown away in the landfill. We think it is cheap to buy disposable items, but in reality, it is more expensive than buying a high-quality item that can be reused or repaired. •Paper bags are also not a viable solution because studies shows that they generate 70% more air pollution and 50% more water pollution than plastic bags (National Geographic).
Their production requires wood, which means deforestation and destruction to the environment and is also extremely energy-intensive (GreenFeet.com).
The only real difference between paper and plastic bags is that paper does not have a lasting environmental impact whereas the impact from plastic bags is more permanent. Substituting paper bags for plastic bags is not a very good alternative. •Recycling is not a viable solution either. According to Wall Street Journal, about 1% of plastic bags are being recycled whereas the rest are left to live on in the landfill (ReuseThisBag.com).
All plastic bags are made up of different kinds of plastic. It is very difficult to recycle plastic because the differing types cannot be mixed. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to recycle plastic bags and it is not cost effective. Jared Blumenfeld, the director of San Francisco Department of the Environment, states that “it costs $4000 to process and recycle one ton of plastic bags, which can be sold on the commodities market for just $32” (Plasticpledge.org).
Obviously, this is not a realist solution to our plastic problems.
•Adding tax to plastic bags will never solve the problem. Some say high tax will make people bring their own reusable bags rather than relying on getting plastic bags. However, it will encourage customers to choose stores that have plastic bags and will not remove the damage due to their use. According to Katie Prentiss from The Daily Northwestern, stores like Whole Foods are integrating a high tax to prevent customers from using plastic bags. They are proposing adding a tax to grocery bills of 25 cents (The Daily Northwestern).
Ireland also added taxes to their groceries and it has decrease the consumption of plastic bags by 90% (ReuseTheBag.com).
It may work in Ireland, but what about the rest of the world? The problem will never go away by adding more tax to plastic bags. It may reduce, but not eliminate the mass use of plastic unless we ban plastic bags entirely. •Some manufacturers have started creating plastic bags made of natural gas or corn, both of which have environmental problems and drive up the cost of food. We are far better off not using them at all than it is to try and find an alternative plastic solution to the use of cheap plastic bags. •Considering that the real cost of the plastic bag is unquantifiable, we should not be allowed to use them at all because the true cost is so high that it is actually immeasurable. How can one determine the external cost of leaving plastic bags in the bottom of the ocean? What is the cost of dead animals? Is the true cost of a plastic bag only 5 cents or is it $100?
And, what is the cost of sick people, or cancer? We cannot really measure the true cost in society because it is so high that we cannot even quantify it. It becomes an ethical issue because people cannot do whatever they want without regard for the rest of the community just for the convenience and perceived savings of using plastic. •The point is that, all these kinds of activities and our selfish desire for cheap, disposable plastic bags can lead to a future generation with no food, no income, air pollution, contaminated drinking water, and high rate of illness. We can address these environmental problem only if we prohibit the use of plastic bags. Our future generations depend on us and we should not selfishly choose the destructive convenience of plastic simply because we are too lazy to find another solution. We should take into consideration the consequences of using plastic bags and how it affects our lives and the lives of future generations. •In my opinion, we should try to use reusable cloth bags that are made from renewable materials to replace plastic and paper bags. We should ban the use of plastic bags entirely, since people cannot be given the option of choosing environmental destruction and suffering for numerous future generations over the inconvenience of finding a real solution to packaging their products. This will be one more step in the right direction for leaving our world inhabitable for our children.