Plastic Bag Pollution Facts!

Pollution

Many countries are now banning plastic bags or charging plastic bags at stores. This is great because this will force more people to be conscious of the amount of plastic bags they use. Also, force many of us to eco bag, which is so much better for the environment. If you are still not convinced about plastic bag pollution, here are some plastic bag pollution facts that will convince to stop using plastic bags!

What is plastic bag pollution?

Plastic bag pollution generally refers to the pollution caused by plastic bags. Yes, the same plastic bags that we so recklessly use and have become an essential part of our daily lives. Plastic bags are one of the best examples of single-use-plastic, a major source of plight for humans, animals and the environment alike.

Why are plastic bags so harmful?

Plastic Bag Pollution Fact: Shopping
Well, the answer to this question is quite simple. Handling plastic waste and efficiently recycling plastic is a very complex and expensive task, which means that it is quite likely for people to show negligence while dealing with plastic bag waste. Hence, majority of this waste ends up on landfill sites where these plastics take hundreds of years to photo-degrade. Often they also break down into small but toxic particles known as micro-plastics and contaminate the surrounding soil, water sources and also end up in animals’ stomachs as deadly toxins.

While plastic usage might have made several of our daily life chores very convenient to perform, it has also created an immensely hostile environment for humans and animals alike. To give you a more vivid image of the destruction we have inflicted and insight about the severity of the situation, let me share some ground-breaking facts and figures about plastic bag pollution.

  • Plastic bags are made from petroleum products
  • Americans use around a 100,00 plastic bags annually
  • The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic-bags used for shopping each year
  • Plastic bags are made of poly-ethylene and other chemical toxins for example: Xylene, Ethylene Oxide, and Benzene.
  • According to Waste Management authorities only 1% of the total plastic-bags are actually recycled
  • People only use plastic bags for an average of 12 minutes
  • It takes more than 500 years for a plastic bag to degrade and even then it does not fully break-down. Plastic waste photo-degrades and transforms into toxic micro-plastics and not only pollutes the environment but also claims the lives of hundreds of animals across the globe, every single day
  • Majority of the plastic pollution that enters oceans is in the form of plastic bags
  • Plastic bags claim the lives of 100,000 marine animals every year
  • One in every three sea turtles are said to have plastics in their stomachs.


Why do we need to reduce the amount of plastic bags?

Turtle eating plastic bag pollution
The answer to this question is closely linked to the deadly impact plastic bags have on animals and humans.

Plastic Bag Pollution Effects on Animals:

As the facts and figures mentioned above have already highlighted that around 100,000 animals are forced to give up their lives due to plastic-bag pollution, let me tell you how exactly plastic waste enters their food chain.

As plastic floats around in the open sea, animals like dolphins, whales, turtles ingest plastic bags mistaking them for healthy and nutritious food. For example, sea turtles may mistake plastic bags for jellyfish or a shark may mistake small plastic bags for fish. Many innocent sea animals are notorious for dying mostly because of excessive plastic consumption, sad isn’t it?

The consequences of ingesting these plastic materials does not only pertain to the animal that accidentally consumed it only because even when that animal dies and even decomposes, but the toxic plastic also remains intact and if another animal eats it, the plastic material will enter its food chain and will result in similar consequences. A never ending chain of transfer of toxic, life-threatening material, isn’t it?

For Humans:

Plastic bag pollution is equally or even more toxic for human health. Numerous studies have shown that heating meals in plastic bags can lead to deadly diseases such as ulcers, asthma, obesity, and certain types of cancers. This is because when you heat your food in plastic bags the toxic chemicals that are present in plastic will enter the meal and then cause health complexities.
Toxic chemicals that have the tendency to cause health issues such as diabetes, heart diseases, liver toxicity etc, such as Bisphenol-A (BPA) are also present in all plastic material

The release of toxic chemicals in the environment during the production of plastic bags is yet another cause of concern, and raises a multitude of health-related questions. These toxic chemicals include a variety of neurotoxic, carcinogenic, and hormone-disruptive chemicals which eventually end up in our ecosystem, contaminating our water supplies and making the surrounding air dangerous to breathe in.
After reading all the above mentioned facts and fully understanding the need to stop plastic bag pollution, I am sure you will be searching for better alternatives to plastic bags and ways to contribute to finding a solution to this growing problem.

Simple Practices for you

Here are a few simple practices you can adopt in your daily life that will assist significantly in reducing plastic bag pollution.

  1. Just don’t use one! Yes, it can be as simple and straightforward as this. Bring your own reusable shopping bag to stores and ditch the plastic bags.
  2. When buying few products try to hand-carry the items out of store if you can.
  3. Numerous thrift stores prefer to re-use plastic bags for their merchandise. So you can easily drop off your clean and dry plastic bags to be recycled.
  4. Re-use the plastic bags yourself. Be creative! Figure out ways to make recycling fun. You can use plastic bags to make small garbage can liners and plastic bag art projects!
  5. Involve your community/friends and family in recycling activities. Spread awareness and always carry on the message. Take accountability and own your environment, make it a safe and happy place for everyone to live in!

I hope you enjoyed this article and learned a lot about these plastic bag pollutions facts.

For more information about plastic pollution, here is a perfect article for you.

Resources:
“10 Facts About Single-use Plastic Bags.” Center for Biological Diversity. Web. 11 Dec. 2020.
Madaan, Sonia. “15 Serious Effects of Plastic Bags Causing Environmental Pollution.” Earth Eclipse. 26 Apr. 2020. Web. 11 Dec. 2020.
               
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!