Plastic Ban Essay
Plastic bags have a wide range of usability in our day to day lives. For instance, we use them to carry our foodstuffs from groceries shops, we also use them as gloves to do dirty chores or as knee pads while gardening. We also cover our plants with plastic bags to prevent them from frosting at night.
Basically, plastic bags can be improvised to do so many things and are therefore very handy at home. The reason why plastic bags are so popular is because they are cheaper than eco-friendly bags. Furthermore, plastic bags are waterproof and very convenient during rainy days. Whilst, there are many advantages we can accrue from using plastic bags, the reality of the matter is that they pose serious threats to us and the environment.
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One of the reasons why plastic bags are bad for the environment is that they practically take forever to decay. Plastics have a very low rate of degradation that it may take thousands of years for a small piece to disintegrate. It goes without saying therefore that since the first modern plastic bags were designed in 1965 by the Swedish company, Celloplast, virtually all the plastic bags are still in existence today. Manufactured from polyethylene- a high density plastic, these bags can withstand all weather conditions.
Secondly, they contribute to climate change. All the polymers and compounds used in the creation of plastic bags such as polypropylene and polyethylene are derived from petroleum and natural gas. The process of extracting fossil fuel and then processing it to produce plastics releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This has resulted to the degradation of the ozone layer, which has subsequently led to global warming. It is also not economically viable to use nonrenewable resources like petroleum and natural gas to produce a commodity that has a very short lifespan.
Moreover, plastic bags pollute the environment. They pollute our lands making them look ugly and untidy. And since they are very light, they are easily carried by wind and water to various places on earth. They litter our pathways, fences, houses and trees and make them look ugly. They also pollute water bodies. All the plastic bags eventually end up in the oceans and other water bodies. Look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is located between Hawaii and California.
The place has the world’s largest accumulation of plastic waste on a water body. With so much plastic floating on water, the marine life is put into too much risk. The situation is even worse if the plastic waste finds its way to the bottom of the ocean, where many sea creatures live and lay eggs. Apart from eating the plastic bags, the sea creatures may also get entangled or trapped by them.
Marine animals often mistake plastic pieces and bags for food. For instance, sea turtles cannot differentiate plastic bags from jelly fish and they therefore consume them. Since they are not biologically designed to digest plastics, the consumed plastic gets trapped into their digestive tracts. The marine animals eventually die from suffocation, infections or inability to feed and excrete waste.
Creatures that prey on fish, such as humans, birds, terrestrial animals and other marine animals also get sucked into the equation through the ocean food web when they feed on contaminated fish meat. When humans consume contaminated fish, they are at a higher risk of getting serious health complications. For example, if they were to ingest PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), then they have a higher chance of getting cancer.
Plastics have no better method of disposal. Even if they were to be burned, then the people within the vicinity will be exposed to harmful plastic fumes. For instance, when polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics are burned they produce dioxins. These chemicals are very harmful to humans. Now, imagine the risks that people would be exposed to if a building full of PVCs would go up in flames. Furthermore, a lot of energy is used during their production processes. The amount of energy used to manufacture nine plastic bags is approximated to be the same as energy used to drive a vehicle for at least half a mile.
It is also worth noting that we do not receive them for free at our retail stores, we pay for them one way or another. Their costs are usually hidden in the prices of commodities we buy. Obviously most people are familiar with that. However, the catch is that our taxpayer money ends up being used to clean up plastic bag wastes. Imagine the cost of a plastic bag ranges between 3 to 5 cents, while the cost of cleaning it up is almost 17 cents.
This is a clear case of cheap is expensive. Apart from that, they also affect our infrastructure. Plastic bags penetrate through drainage and sewer systems and clog them. This results to water blockages, burst pipes and water overflow. The situation is dire during rainy seasons, which in most cases results to flooding.
Furthermore, it is not possible to recycle them. The waste is just too much to be contained. And if we decided to recycle them, then people will be encouraged to continue using them. As it stands now, plastic bags are not the only ones that we should be worried about. There are other forms of plastics that have not yet been banned, but still pose the same risks as plastic bags.
The main issue with plastic bags is that they are very light and can fit anywhere, which means that they spread much faster than their heavier counterparts. Even if recycling was an option, there are no facilities on this earth that can keep up with the rate at which these bags are being made.
Plastic ban is a move towards the right direction. Most of the biggest economies on earth, such as China, USA and European nations have banned plastic bags. The nations that have not done it yet should also follow suit. Some of the concerns raised are that people will lose their sources of livelihood and that plastic bags are cheaper to produce. While these notions are far from false, the fact remains that plastic bags will destroy our environment and everything in it if we do not act now. When plastic bags are banned everywhere, innovators will come up with other alternatives. They will create companies and people will get employment as a result.
When we consider production costs, the plastic bag is cheaper and easier to produce than eco-friendly bags. However, plastic bags are not durable and undergo wear and tear very easily. In fact, we quickly discard them into our garbage bins as soon as we reach home. Eco-friendly bags, such as cotton bags are actually very durable and can washed and reused over and over again. They are actually cheaper in the long run, because they do not require government intervention to clear them from the streets. They easily decay and disappear from the face of the earth. It is actually absurd to spend money to produce something that will cost you more than three times its value to try and get rid of it.
Banning is probably the surest way of securing the future for the coming generations. All nations should have one voice and agree unanimously to stop plastic bag production. It is worth noting that plastic bags from one nation are enough to pollute the whole world. So, if the developed nations have banned plastic bags, but developing nations are still producing them, then that changes nothing. Still all the toxic waste will find its way to the oceans and eventually, to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Educating or sensitizing people about the hazards of plastic will not help deal with the problem in developing nations. They will most definitely use them still. And it is not an issue of ignorance or arrogance, because they can see and smell the garbage heaps next to their homesteads. The issue is cost. Most people in developed nations live below poverty line. They cannot afford to spend any more money on environmental friendly bags.
So, the best approach is banning. It should be illegal to own or even carry plastic bags. Heavy penalties should be imposed on anyone found with plastic bags. Even though they will still exist in the black markets, they should be so expensive to the point that people will prefer eco-friendly bags to plastic bags. The governments should also step ahead and offer subsidies and incentives to companies creating eco-friendly bags.
The governments should also fund extensive experimentation and researches on better alternatives to all plastic forms and not just plastic bags to end the manufacture of all plastics completely. There should also be extensive researches on the best method of dealing with the heaps of plastic wastes piled all over the world. We cannot just assume that there is no elephant in the room. The waste has to be dealt with pronto or its toxicity will become airborne. We need to get rid of all plastic wastes forever.