As well as being an eyesore, discarded plastic shopping bags clog the waterways and end up in landfills where they can take 1,000 years break down.
Why are plastic bags so harmful?
Plastic bags are bad for the environment because they are non-biodegradable, which means they do not decay. Plastic bags are made from various toxic chemicals, which are harmful to the environment. Some of the chemicals that go into the production of plastic bags include benzene, ethylene oxide and xylene.
These toxic chemicals are sources of various diseases as well as disorders in humans, and as the bags are broken down, these chemicals can become airborne.
What are some possible solutions?
Use reusable shopping bags. Reusable shopping bags are generally made from renewable materials such as jute, canvas and juco (a jute and cotton mixture). These bags are a great substitute for plastic or even paper bags. Reusable bags come in a variety of colours, styles and sizes.
Recycle plastic bags. If you forget your reusable bag when you’re shopping and need to use a plastic bag, make sure you recycle it. A lot of supermarkets have plastic bag collection points. If your local supermarket does not do these collections, check if there is a community recycling initiative.
Not so fun facts about plastic bags
1. Each year there are over one trillion plastic bags used worldwide
2. Approximately one million plastic bags are used each minute
3. It can take more than 1,000 years for a plastic bag to degrade
4. In the UK, only 1 in 200 plastic bags are recycled
5. The US uses roughly 100 billion single-use plastic bags per year. This costs retailers around $4 billion per annum
6. After cigarette butts, plastic bags account for the second most common form of ocean refuse
7. Plastic bags are still toxic, even after they degrade
8. Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it
So, in the immortal words of Captain Planet, “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.”