The convenience of using plastic bags has created a major disaster that’s causing all sorts of damage to our environment. Most of us use plastic bags to carry groceries and they have become a menace in conserving the environment. In recent years, several countries around the globe including China, have banned the manufacture and use of plastic bags. Other countries have introduced restrictions on the use of plastic bags in an effort to limit its effects. Below are seven reasons why plastic bags should be banned.
1. Land Pollution
Landfills are overburdened with dumped plastic bags. Since they are light, the wind carries and deposits plastic bags all over the place increasing land litter. These plastic bags get stuck on trees, traffic lights, and power lines posing a risk to the general public, not forgetting the disruption in the environmental cycle.
2. Farmers Are Affected
Many cotton farmers are affected when plastic bags get mixed with cotton during harvesting and could damage the machinery. If the plastic bags find their way into the processing stage, they melt and mix with cotton fibers, thereby contaminating the cotton. Additionally, cow farmers complain about the increasing deaths of their cows caused by swallowing plastic bags which prevent food from being digested. On top of that, when the chemicals from the plastic bags seep underground, they degrade the water quality which affects the soil, hence crop production.
3. Air Pollution
If you’ve ever burned plastic bags, then you know the kind of smell they release. Their smoke is full of chemicals which, when inhaled, could cause respiratory problems in humans and animals. During the processing of plastic bags, toxic emissions such as dioxins and phthalates fill the air and affect us and the workers. This causes immune system and reproductive disorders and respiratory conditions such as asthma.
4. Hazardous to Marine Life and the Water We Use
Groundwater is susceptible to toxic leaks from plastic bags and other waste. If you’ve seen a landfill, imagine where that water goes when it rains. The consequences in case of seepage could be devastating. Plastic bags can easily be carried to the oceans by water or wind. Our oceans are now filled with litter and it’s such an eyesore. Marine life such as fish and turtles often mistake the plastic bags for food and end up consuming them. This blocks their digestive tracts and eventually they die. Fish and other marine life could also suffocate when they get entangled in the plastic bags.
5. Clogs the Drainage System
When plastic bags get blown by the wind, they end up in the drainage systems. In most countries, plastic bags clogging storm drains are causing severe problems such as flooding. In 2007, San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board started an initiative to clean up three waterways in San Jose – Guadalupe River, Coyote Creek, and Silver Creek. Over 40 “trash hot spots” were identified as requiring immediate cleaning. They collected 1,000 plastic bags from the Coyote Creek alone and the city has since seen a major reduction of the litter in the rivers.
6. Adverse Effects on the Economy
Cleaning plastic bags is very expensive. According to the State of California, it costs $25 million annually for the collection of plastic bags that litter creeks and clog storm drains. With space to put garbage becoming scarce as the population increases, the government has to find alternative ways to reduce waste from plastic bags. The unsightly litter on our highways requires more resources to reduce land, air, and water pollution. When this pollution affects wildlife and marine life, tourism decreases which adversely impacts the economies of those countries. In addition to that, plastic bags are not easy to recycle. They are produced in extremely large volumes that the recycling facilities are not able to handle.
7. Indirect Effects on Our Health
Most organisms depend on each other for survival. When one organism is affected by ingesting the poisonous chemicals from plastic bags it upsets the food chain. This means that if that organism is consumed by other animals, it could cause problems or even death. The same goes for human beings who consume contaminated fish every day. We get exposed to toxic compounds that develop into serious complications such as cancer.
The plastic bags menace is such a huge mess in our society today. With most countries now enforcing a ban on the use of plastic bags, we should be responsible and use proper disposable methods to curb the litter in the oceans and on land. A collective effort will go a long way into managing the campaign against plastic bags. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) recommended a global ban on all plastic bags and this has seen a decrease in plastic bag usage by about 90 percent in European countries like Ireland.