Plastic Shopping Bags and our Environment
Plastic shopping bags have a surprisingly significant environmental impact for something so seemingly innocuous. As well as being an eyesore (next time you are outside, have a look around - you'll be amazed at the number of plastic bags littering our streets and waterways), plastic shopping bags kill large numbers of wildlife each year. In the water, plastic bags can be mistaken for jellyfish by wildlife. This makes plastic bag pollution in marine environments particularly dangerous, as birds, whales, seals and turtles ingest the bags then die from intestinal blockages. Disturbingly, it is claimed that plastic bags are the most common man-made item seen by sailors at sea.
The biggest problem with plastic bags is that they do not readily break down in the environment, with estimates for the time it takes them to decompose ranging from 20 to 1000 years. One of the disquieting facts stemming from this is that plastic bags can become serial killers. The incredibly slow rate of decay of plastic bags also means that each bag we use compounds the problem, because the bags simply accumulate.
Plastic bags also clog drains and waterways, threatening not only natural environments but also urban ones. In fact, plastic bags in drains were identified as major factors in the severe flooding in Bangladesh in 1988 and 1998.
On top of the significant environmental costs, widespread use of plastic bags is also costly in terms of dollars and cents. Apart from the price of the bags themselves, which is four to six cents each, a great deal of money goes into collecting the bags (ie cleaning up!) once they've been discarded.
In South Africa for instance eight billion plastic bags are used annually while in Australia six billion plastic bags are used out of which 3.3 are supermarket plastic bags.
There are a range of alternatives to plastic bags. Some retailers offer paper bags but then again paper comes from trees which may cause deforestation. Some major supermarket chains have cotton or calico bags available for sale at a very small price. These bags can be kept in the car and used again and again. The advantage of calico bags is that they are stronger than the plastic bags, and also much easier to carry. Also calico/cotton bags can be re-used any number of times. It takes a little thought to get used to bringing your own bags, but it is an easy habit to fall into and it is such a relief not to have to pack the groceries away, and then find room to pack away the plastic bags as well! So next time, hold your head up proudly as you refuse a plastic bag. Replace it by a Cotton/ Calico bag and be proud that you have made a contribution to the future of the planet.
WE SUPPORT NGOs AND NON-PROFITS WORKING TO PRESERVE OUR ENVIRONMENT. WE WILL BE PLEASED TO MAKE THE BAGS ON NON-PROFIT BASIS FOR REGISTERED NGOs. PLEASE CONTACT US FOR MORE DETAILS.