20+ Reasons Why Plastic Bags Should Be Banned
Plastic bags are everywhere in our environment. When we go to purchase our groceries, we use plastic bags because they are convenient. In fact, in our modern lives, it has become part of us. However, the convenience of these plastic bags come at a very high cost to the environment and negatively affects human health. Several cities globally have begun banning the use of plastic bags while some have enforced restricted laws against the use of plastic bags because of the negative effects of the use of their usage.
Besides, the use of plastic bags is considered as one of the great issues that humans are facing in their contemporary life. Cities such as China have banned the use of plastics. Bangladesh and India has only banned the use and sale of polythene bags which basically have thickness of less than 50 microns.
Below are some of the 20+ reasons why plastic bags should be banned from our cities.
- Plastic bags do not only pollute our water but also our land. Plastic bags are usually lightweight and as such, they can travel very long distances by either water or wind. Wind blows these plastic bags and trashes a whole area. These litters gets caught up in between trees, fences and floats in water bodies thus moving to the world’s oceans.
- The plastic bags are made from non-renewable sources and on this account, highly contribute to climate change. Most of plastic is made of polypropylene which is a material manufactured from petroleum and natural gas. All of the materials are non-renewable fossil fuel-based materials and through their extraction and even production, greenhouse gases are created which further contribute to global climate change.
- A lot of energy is used in producing these bags. The total amount of energy required to drive a car for one kilometre or 0.5 miles is the equivalent energy required to produce nine plastic bags. It is not rational that these non-renewable resources are used to make plastic bags when the typical useful life of each and every plastic bag is around 12 minutes.
- Plastic bags do not degrade. In truth, petroleum based plastic bags never degrade. Instead of the plastic degrading, it is broken down into small tiny pieces which are swept down and end up in the oceans which are then consumed by wildlife. Currently, there are approximately 46,000-1,000,000 plastic fragments floating within every square mile of the globes oceans.
- Plastic bags are harmful to wildlife and marine life. Birds, animals and marine life such as sea turtles and fish often mistake the plastic bag and other plastic materials for food and consume them. What happens once they consume these plastic materials is that their digestive system gets congested leading to the development of health infections and death when there is suffocation. The animals may also become easily entangled inside the plastic.
- Plastic bags are harmful to human health. There are some chemicals from the plastic bags which can disrupt the normal functioning of hormones in the body. Most plastic fragments in the oceans like plastic bags have some pollutants such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) together with PAHs (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) which are hormone disrupting. Once the marine animals consume these chemicals, they move through the food web then later into the humans who consume fish together with other marine animals. The chemical materials bio-accumulates in the sea animals and fish system as they are exposed to them in the ocean waters. When the humans prepare them they consume all these chemicals affecting their healths. They could develop cancers or other serious conditions.
- Plastic bags are expensive and hard to clean or remove from the environment. The amount of plastic bag cleanup is around 17 cents per bag thus in average the taxpayers end up paying around $88 each year just on plastic bag waste. These plastic bags also cost 3-5 cents each. Thus, the plastic considered free is not free after all. Individuals pay a lot to purchase them and even for reusing them. For this reason, plastics should simply be banned.
- Plastic bags have external costs. Several costs are attributed to the production of plastic bags. A prime example is the production and environmental costs.
- Plastic bags are not easy to recycle. Plastic bags are said to present significant challenge in terms of recycling. Recycling facilities do not have the capacity to recycle plastic bags and thus do not accept them. Therefore, the actual recycling rate for plastic bags is around 5%.
- Plastic bags tend to last more; perhaps forever and we even use so many of them. Plastic bags never degrade completely which shows that as more of them are produced by companies, then more are introduced into the environment. Therefore, the more the amount of plastic bags the more there is plastic pollution and its effects. Banning the use of plastic bags will help reduce this great effect.
- Even if we did decide to recycle plastic bags, these materials still do end up in oceans and landfills. Recycling the plastic bags does not affect the fact that they will still be dumped into the environment and end up into either landfills or oceans. These recycled plastic bags are not degradable and cause the same effects as non-recycled plastic bags.
- These plastic bags are impacting the environment negatively in that they are making the Great Pacific garbage patch bigger every minute. Most of the plastic materials once released into the environment find their way into waterways and once they are there they dumped into oceans. Great Pacific Ocean is one such area negatively affected with all the plastic material. The more they are thrown into the oceans the more they increase causing the garbage patch to increase in size.
- Bans should be adopted because they are greatly effective at reducing plastic big waste. China banned plastic bags and four years later, the amount of plastic bags thrown into the environment had reduced by 40 billion. If the US bans plastic bags, there would be fewer landfills.
- Plastic bags help keep our streets clean. Most of our cities are not clean especially Indian and most African country streets because people don’t care to know where they throw their garbage. They do it in water bodies, streets and in the landfills. These wastes litter our streets making them look ugly affecting their aesthetic value.
- It helps spread awareness. When we ban plastic bags, we keep our environment clean and at the same time send some message globally about the importance of environment protection. People learn that banning plastic is for a reason and they can take up such important information. They can subsequently begin to understand that the plastic causes some negative effects and the environment and humans need protection against them.
- With a ban on plastic bags, there would be improved technology which would boost other businesses. With such a ban, the society would be required to produce some more sophisticated bags. A great manpower will be required by the manufacturing factories so they can make eco-friendly and greener materials.
- Banning plastic bags helps save money. These plastics cost a lot of money because the final costs account for the total production costs from their manufacture using petroleum to when they will be thrown away.
- People are ready for the ban and thus, it should be adopted. People have seen how much the plastic bags have adverse effects on their health’s and environment and thus, they have desired and opted for change. This change is the use of eco-friendly materials.
- Through banning plastic bags, the people will learn to support local workers together with green industries.
- People can opt for manufacturing reusable bags so that they create products which are sustainable. Manufacturing reusable bags will create new job opportunities in terms of green manufacturing, research and processing of packaging products.
- Other nations are banning the use of plastic because they have noticed that it is causing harm to the environment and human health. Currently, over 40 nations together with municipalities around the globe have instituted plastic bag bans. Other nations should follow suit to reduce the overall environmental implications.
- UNEP secretariat has recommended a ban on all plastic bags worldwide. This means there are a thousand and one reasons for the ban of plastic bags. If some governments cannot ban them completely, then they can make the people pay heftily for using plastic bags to discourage its usage.
- Through the banning of plastic, cities in various nations can begin to focus on other bigger waste diversion challenges. Cities have had set targets that they are supposed to achieve like in Toronto, Canada where the city council is required to achieve 70% waste diversion by 2010. People cannot achieve the set target because most households do not have green bins. If there is plastic bag bans then city council can place their focus and attention on getting green bins to various apartment buildings and then meeting waste diversion targets.
Image credit: Jonathan , Kate
Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.
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Plastic shopping bags. They certainly serve a purpose. They are cheap and easy to produce and their light weight makes them ideal to keep shipping costs down. Reused, they make great liners for small trash cans or a convenient way to carry all sorts of things. But an image I will never forget was the very first time I visited a landfill and saw plastic bags clearly visible in every nearby tree looking somewhat a layer of spider webs. Years later, I learned that one of our local landfills even trained a monkey to climb the trees and retrieve these pesky air blown things! It’s not just a problem in landfills. You see them virtually everywhere; on roadsides, stuck in shrubbery and telephone wires, and in bodies of water. Yuck.
Of course, litter is not the only environmental concern with these and obviously this is not a new issue. But, I found it interesting to learn that plastic bags were once seen as the more environmentally friendly alternative to paper bags. More recent reports seem to find both equally as bad and conclude that using reusable bags instead is the much better choice environmentally. The energy and resources required to make just one plastic bag might not be terribly significant, but why are we mass producing and using so many in this country? To me that is the bigger concern.
On June 18th, Los Angeles adopted an ordinance banning the use of plastic bags at grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and some retailers. This will make Los Angeles the largest city in the United States to implement a single-use ban. Though California has been among the most progressive states in enacting environmental policy, Los Angeles is not alone in banning plastic shopping bags. Chicago, Aspen, and Eugene, Oregon have also implemented similar bans. Many others are also looking into charging a fee on bags. To most in the United States this seems like a drastic measure. However, it’s common practice among many European countries. The cultural norm is you bring your bag with you when you go shopping, or you often have to pay for one at the store. It makes perfect sense, after all plastic bags are not free. But here in the United States where putting items in a bag when purchased is common practice (often even if you are only purchasing one item that could easily be carried out), we don’t think about the cost because the cost is already included in everything we purchase! We are paying for it, like it or not.
Because of the cultural norm being so different in the U.S., naturally there is a lot of resistance in this country for a ban. Other states, like New York, have tried the less progressive approach to increase the recycling of plastic bags by requiring retailers to offer a recycling programs to their customers. The effectiveness of these programs is questionable and don’t reduce the number of plastic bags produced.
Colleges and Universities have looked at the issue. Tufts, California State University of Long Beach, University of Oregon, and Ithaca College have all lobbied to ban bags and actively encourage the use of reusable bags. Earlier this year, the University of Rochester’s Team Green began a similar campaign to ban the sale of bottled water on campus. Although there was some support, those who were against this idea were quite adamant. You will see quite the debate in the comments of our blog post on the topic. I wonder if there would be the same amount of push-back for a ban on bags? I tend to think that people are a bit more passionate when it comes to food and beverages. But, there is definitely a large number of people who believe in their right to choose and want to preserve that right, regardless of what the issue is. A strict ban on anything would be out of the question for these invidiuals.
Perhaps a compromise could be reached at the University some day, or a campaign to promote reusable bags on campus will begin. Plastic bags are most definitely ending up in our waste stream and we pay to have them hauled to a landfill. A few small student initiatives to collect and recycle bags have been formed, with not much impact. In my opinion, the way to be more successful is through source reduction. While I do not believe that banning plastic bags altogether is the ultimate answer, I’m all for doing it in campus setting.