We live in a “plastic bag world.” They’re always at our fingertips, and are easily accessible at shopping malls or grocery stores. For most people, these bags are only used once before they’re discarded into the abyss of the household garbage can.
But have you ever considered where these bags go after they’re tossed out with the trash?
An estimated one trillion (yes, you read that correctly) plastic bags go into the waste stream every year. This is a problem on many levels, but consider this: most bags won’t decompose for 1,000 years. Bottom line: when a plastic bag is “thrown out,” it doesn’t disappear. It will live on earth over ten times longer than any human will. When you think of the vast history that our world has seen in this span of time – think back to the Roman Empire – it truly begins to put the lifespan of a plastic bag into perspective.
Many end up in landfills – in Australia, studies estimate that over 7,000 plastic bags are dumped into waste sites every minute. But most make their home in the ocean, where they will remain for a millennia. 6 million tons of garbage are dumped into the sea each year – and plastic accounts for about 80% of this amount.
The truly painful fact? They are recyclable. However, a lack of facilities – and a lack of knowledge about the harm that plastic imposes on the environment – means that they are often a permanent part of the waste steam. 5 Gyres is an invaluable resource to learn how plastics affect habitats, animals, and people alike.
Plastic bags have only been a part of our society for about thirty years, but they’ve made a big statement in a small amount of time. There is time to repair the damage, but we need to act. There is no “tomorrow” – it’s time to create a plastic-free future now.
Luckily, there are a wealth of simple and eco-friendly options. Many manufacturers are now producing bags made from plant-based material that can biodegrade quickly and efficiently. Keep a reusable bag tucked in your car (or your bike basket!) so that you’ll always have one handy if you want to do little extra shopping. The perk? Many grocery stores are offering incentives to customers who bring their own bags. Essentially, you can save money and the environment with one simple action.
Plastic bags are a convenience. But when one considers their grave environmental impact, they become something else entirely. This is a nuisance that we can live without – happily and sustainably.
Plastic Bag Pollution Awareness was last modified: September 23rd, 2017 by