The Ugly Face of Plastic Bags – Some Horrifying Repercussions
Did you know that over the last decade, the amount of plastic that has been produced has been more than that produced over the whole of the last century? A whopping 500 billion plastic bags are used every single year. This means that about 100 plastic bags are being used by each on the planet in just one year. The facts and figures are indeed mind-boggling especially when you consider that a mere 5% of the plastic that is produced is recovered. This means that well over 95% plastic that is manufactured is considered “waste” and non-biodegradable waste at that.
Read more about plastic bag’s history.
Careless Discarding: A Costly Journey
At the tremendous rate of usage of plastic in the world today, it is important to stop for a moment and look at all the damage that it is doing to the environment and life.
According to statistics, around 300 million plastic bags end up in the Atlantic Ocean every year. That means about 60% of the produced bags are discarded into the ocean. Aquatic animals such as porpoises and other mammals mistake the plastic bag for its meal. The result? They end up trying to consume the bag. The bag either ends up choking them by blocking the airway path or ends up leading to intestinal blockage. Do we realize that a careless act, as simple as throwing a plastic bag, can cost an innocent creature its life? As more living organisms in the oceans die, the ecological balance concerning aquatic life is compromised as well.
It is a known fact that plastic is non-biodegradable. This means that plastic does not break down and get decomposed which in turn, means that plastic bags take hundreds and hundreds of years literally even to start breaking down. When these bags are dumped on wastelands, the soil is stripped off its nutrients because of the toxic chemicals that are present in the plastic bags. Thus, with time, that soil will be completely stripped of all its fertility and nutrients, making it unfit for any form of cultivation. The result is that the soil is considered as a wasteland, unfit for human use.
It is said that roughly 1.5 million to 3 million plastic bags are littered on land every year, depending on the location. This land litter has the potential to kill living organisms to the extent that one bag can unintentionally kill one animal every 3 months. Animals assume that the plastic bag contains food, or in some cases, is food. Unintentional digestion or inhalation of the microplastics that plastic bags are made up of leads to blockage in the intestines of the animal. The digestion process goes haywire and eventually, the animal dies.
Humans don’t live in isolation. The loss to the planet is a loss to us. Our myopia has come back to bite us. The loss to the soil, or to the biodiversity of water or land eventually disrupts the ecological balance. This causes unanticipated natural disasters. They say if the humans are lost, the bees will thrive. If the bees are lost, the humans will die. After breaking down into smaller plastic particles, the plastic of the last many decades has started to come back to us in our food and water as microplastics. If our most filtered packaged drinking water isn’t safe, are we?
What are we Doing to Prevent this Catastrophe?
Though awareness about plastic and the harm that it can cause to life and property is talked about at length at schools, colleges, and even workplaces, what are we doing about it as individuals? How are we contributing to a plastic-free planet? If you have to think hard about this question, then the answer is nothing. There is only one way to prevent deaths and damage due to the use of plastic bags. It is by taking full responsibility for your actions and being a responsible human being.
Start by educating yourself about the threat that plastic bags pose to the world. Educate your family, friends and even your neighbours about the ghastly impacts that using plastic bags can have on the world. They say “Each one, teach one” and this is ever so true in this case.
Read about the measures being taken by countries to reduce plastic usage.
Use reusable products – Like reusable shopping bags. These bags are generally made of cloth, jute or even paper. Use these bags in place of the plastic bags. If you do have plastic bags lying around, start to reuse them as well. Use them for as long as you can. You can even use them at home as storage.
Monitor your Plastic Usage
Start counting the number of plastic bags and one-time plastics that you use in a week. Start making a conscious effort to cut down on that number until you reach a day when that number is zero.
Spread the Message. Save Us All.
Most importantly, spread the word. Remember that it is your planet and your home and it is your responsibility and duty to ensure that it is a safe and healthy place to live in.