What’s Wrong with Plastic Bags?

by Mary Makofske

WHERE WILL WE PUT THEM ALL?

In one month (January, 2008), the world used nearly 42 billion plastic bags. Americans throw out approximately 100 billion plastic bags a year.

Only 1-3 % of plastic bags are recycled. It costs much more to recycle them than the recycled product can be sold for.

IS THIS A GOOD USE OF FOSSIL FUELS?

Plastic bags are made of fossil fuels (petroleum and natural gas). Each year about 12 million barrels of oil go into making plastic grocery bags.

HOW LOVELY ARE THEY?

Because they are so light, the bags can blow away, creating litter.

HOW DANGEROUS ARE THEY?

Bags can clog storm drains and create flooding.

Each year, 1 million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and many fish die when they try to eat or become entangled in plastic debris.

WOULD YOU EAT A PLASTIC BAG?

Bags disintegrate but never biodegrade. They break down into toxic particles that contaminate the soil and water. These particles can enter the food chain when ingested by animals. “What goes into the ocean goes into these animals and onto your dinner plate,” says Dr. Marcus Eriksen of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

IS PAPER BETTER THAN PLASTIC?

Not really. Paper can be recycled more easily than plastic, but paper bags create more initial pollution and are much heavier and bulkier. Therefore they require more fossil fuel to transport and take up more space in landfills.

Though paper bags do biodegrade, they cannot do so in a landfill because they are compressed and not exposed to light and air.

Using any bag once, or even twice, is not an efficient use of resources.

 

ADVANTAGES OF A REUSABLE BAG:

  •  A HEAVY DUTY CLOTH BAG WILL LAST FOR MANY YEARS.
  • IT CAN BE WASHED IF NECESSARY.
  • IT WON’T BREAK EASILY.
  • IT HOLDS MORE ITEMS.
  • IT HELPS YOU TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

 

 

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