Stop the use of disposable bags
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According to the EPA, between 500 million and a trillion plastic bags are exploited internationally each year. Consequently, these bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, but remain among Earth for thousands of years, polluting landfills, oceans, parks and beaches. Many believe the solution is this; switch to paper bags, but, both plastic and paper disposable bags are costly, environmentally damaging, and completely inessential.
This threat is not only related to the sheer volume of them ending up in landfill, but also to the resources needed to produce. The making of plastic bags requires substantial amounts of natural resources, water, and energy. Plastic bags are made from fossil fuels, requiring 2.2 billion pounds of these nonrenewable resources, and 3.9 billion gallons of fresh water to produce the 100 billion plastic bags the US consumes each year. During the manufacturing process, these bags produce another one billion pounds of waste and 2.7 million tons of CO2 per year. Exhausted yet? This does not even count for the energy and water required, essentially creating more pollution than plastic bags.
In addition to the production of plastic bags, producing the paper bags used in the U.S. each year requires 14 million trees. To replace the damage, 14 million trees would need to be planted each year, but even then it would take anywhere from 10-30 years for the trees to reach maturity. Along with the decline of trees also comes air pollution. It estimated that the production of paper bags creates 70% more air pollution than plastic bag production. Production of paper bags also results in much more water getting polluted when compared to the production of plastic bags because their manufacturing process requires a substantially large amount of water.
Not only does water play a role in the production of disposable bags, but it also plays a role in the pollution caused by them as well. Because plastic bags never fully break down, oftentimes they clog storm drains and damage infrastructure on their way to become ocean pollution. In 1998, plastic bag pollution in Bangladesh clogged storm drains and was the central cause of severe floods that submerged 2/3 of the country. Four years later, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to ban thinner plastic bags.
Evidently enough, the storm drains are not the only watercourses affected by the pollution of plastic bags. The mass consumption of plastic products has created a plastic wasteland in our oceans. Globally, plastic is now more evident in our oceans than plankton, with 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean. Both marine and avian lives are choked and strangled by tossed bags, and are killed by consuming partially broken-down plastic pieces. The complication of pollution affects 267 species of marine life and will drastically increase through the continuous use of disposable bags.
Expressed above, the use of disposable bags negatively impacts the environment, but also affects the economy as well. Bags may be given out for free at check-outs, but U.S. retailers spend $4 billion per year on disposable bags, and that cost is passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices. It also costs to clean up and dispose of the plastic bags. Even if you think you have thrown away a bag responsibly, the bag can blow out of a garbage truck or landfill and end up as inadvertent litter. In New York alone, the city spends $10 million to dispose of the plastic bags.
Though we are not in power to ban the use of plastic bags used by retail, we do have the ability to abstain from the use of them before gaining the attention of higher authority. This can be done by bringing your own bag when shopping. Reusable grocery bags and shopping bags are often available for purchase in stores at the point of sale. Some estimates suggest that purchasing a single set of reusable shopping bags and using them every time you go shopping could eliminate the disposal of as many as 20,000 disposable plastic bags. Reusable bags save both plants and animals, and help cut down on the emission of dangerous greenhouse gases.
Remember, you have a choice. Even if plastic shopping bags are still offered free of charge, that doesn't mean you can't decline to use them. There’s a greater price to pay if the issue of plastic bags are ignored. So, spend the extra dollar on a reusable bag and stray away from the use of plastic. With your purchase we’ll be one step closer to a sustainable environment...and your bags won’t tear either.
- Mayor of McHenry
I am a 16 year old girl consumed by the wonders of the environment and the need to find sustainable solutions. I’ve always dreamt to make a change towards a healthy environment, both for life now and generations to come, but I never knew how to start or what problems to address. After researching topics and situations to communicate, I decided to start with a change that’s so simple, yet so impacting: Disposable bags. We, the members of McHenry County, ask that this matter be given immediate attention. Thank you for your prompt consideration.
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