What is Plastic Bag Pollution?
In 2021, the globe was plagued with 8.3 billion tons of plastic, of which 6.3 billion tons were trash. Plastic pollution refers to the piling-up of non-biodegradable plastic materials on the Earth that negatively affect the environment. As plastic breaks down, the particulate matter is toxic, carcinogenic, and contaminates air, water, and land, impacting the food chain & overall lifeforms on Earth.
How Harmful Are Plastic Bags?
As you know, plastic by nature is not biodegradable- this means breaking down plastic by natural processes could take anywhere between 500-1000 years. Further, plastic absorbs UV rays from the sun to photodegrade and, even in the process, emits toxins to the environment. When animals consume plastic by mistake, it creeps up the food chain and affects all living things adversely. Since plastic is manufactured from petroleum products, it’s a powerhouse of greenhouse-gases emissions contributing to global warming & climate change.
How Does Plastic Bags Affect The Environment?
Plastics dumped in landfills contaminate the soil causing land pollution. Not just that, the particulate matter that disintegrates from plastic seeps into the soil to contaminate the groundwater. Direct ingestion of plastic, or indirect via land/water contamination, causes detrimental effects on all organisms- from a fully-grown mammal to single-celled planktons.
Why are Plastics a Problem?
The humans who manufacturers will never get to see it disintegrate during their lifetime- or even several generations, for that matter. Accumulation of plastic made from the start still float on Earth in various forms- the Great Pacific Garbage is one of the direct consequences of plastic dumping & pollution. Exposure to plastic causes a host of health problems such as lung complications, reproductive failures & irregularities in women, and prostate cancer, among many others.
How Many Countries Have Banned Plastic?
According to reports by the UN, around 77 countries have banned plastic. Also, at least 127 countries (of 192 reviewed) have adopted some form of legislation to regulate plastic bags as of July 2018. In 2002, Bangladesh was the first country to introduce a complete ban on lightweight plastic bags. Rightly so! It’s about time we switched to reusable bags that are sustainable and eco-friendly.
How Much Plastic Do We Eat?
According to studies by WWF International in 2019, an average person could be ingesting about 5g of plastic every week, roughly consuming a credit card. Microplastic is a significant catalyst in accelerating this since plastic particulate matter finds its way into our day-to-day food & water consumption due to extreme pollution. Thus, in a month, a human could consume plastic equivalent to the weight of a 4×2 Lego brick. And, a year? About plastic present in a fireman’s helmet!
What Is Better To Use Paper Or Plastic Bags?
The answer could seem pretty straightforward, right? Would you believe it if we say this is like Sophie’s Choice?
Yes, paper bags are recyclable and eco-friendly compared to non-biodegradable plastic bags. However, the resources needed to convert pulp into paper are enormous, especially the water requirement. Studies have shown that it takes 4X more energy to produce a paper bag than a plastic bag. Couple this with the chemicals & fertilizers and the heavy machinery running on fossil fuels to produce paper bags. It’s best to switch to reusable alternatives such as jute, bamboo, & hemp bags to create a good deed for our environment.
How Do You Upcycle Plastic Bags?
Plastic bags can be used for various purposes at home or anywhere around you, that too, multiple times. Storing any spillable liquids, lining trash cans, reusing to carry groceries, and more!
What Are Plastic Bags Made Of?
Plastic is made from a polymer substance called polyethylene, comprising ethylene monomers. Ethylene, in turn, is derived from natural gas & petroleum. Plastic bags are mostly made of HDPE[high-density polyethylene], which is one of the common forms of plastic.
How Much Plastic Is In The Ocean?
According to studies, about 8 million pieces of plastic are dumped into our oceans every day. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is around 1.6 million square kilometers, larger than Texas. Not just that, over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from plastic pollution each year.
What are the Different Types of Plastic?
The different types of plastic include:
- PET [Polyethylene Terephthalate] → Due to its ability to prevent oxygen from entering, PET plastic is widely used for food and drink packaging purposes.
- HDPE [High-Density Polyethylene] → HDPE is a resistant resin used to manufacture household items such as grocery bags, recycling bins, shampoo bottles, jugs, and more.
- PVC [Polyvinyl chloride] → Used extensively in the building & construction industry. Since it’s not recyclable, PVC must be avoided.
- LDPE [Low-density Polyethylene] → Used in plastic bags, plastic wraps, dispensing bottles, and more.
- PP [Polypropylene] → Tupperwares, car parts, thermal vests, and more are made from PP
- PS [Polystyrene] → Commonly known as styrofoam, it is used to make toys, CD cases, and more. Polystyrene causes severe harm to the environment since it’s completely biodegradable.
- Other Plastic → Polycarbonates used for making lenses for sunglasses and sports & safety goggles fall in this category, among others.