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Keep Earth Clean: How Plastic Bags Pollute Our Environment
Written by: Greg Wiszniewski
Manufacturers began producing plastic bags for retail use during the 1970s as an alternative to paper bags. Plastic bags can be an integral part of the shopping experience. As a bagger at the store places your purchased items into a plastic bag, you might not even think about the potential ramifications of using this common type of bag. The impact of plastic bags on the environment has become significant.
Problems with Plastic
With their prevalent use, plastic bags have become a common feature of the shopping experience. Consumers may reuse plastic bags, but recycling them is less common. Because discarding plastic bags is the most common end result, many of them litter landfills. It’s also common for plastic bags to become marine debris in the oceans, where they can have a devastating impact on marine life. Animals, such as sea turtles, may mistake plastic bags for food. Animals may also become intertwined with plastic bags. For the plastic bags that are recycled, this option also has a downside. Recycling plastic bags is an expensive process. Plastic bags can cause damage to recycling equipment.
Communities are exploring possible solutions in the process of cleaning up the environment and minimizing a negative impact on natural ecosystems. Some cities are banning plastic bag usage at retailers. Consumers can also make a positive contribution to the environment by making personal decisions to limit or avoid using plastic bags. Using reusable cloth bags is one alternative to using plastic bags. Return plastic bags to a recycling receptacle to ensure that they do not go to landfills. When disposing of plastic bags, always place them into a non-biodegradable receptacle. Look for newer biodegradable plastic bags when you do opt to use this type of bag for shopping. Biodegradable bags will break down effectively in landfills instead of cluttering these areas.
- History of the Plastic Bag – The Plastics Industry Trade Association has compiled a timeline of the plastic bag.
- The Problem of Plastic Bags – Learn about common problems with plastic bags, including recycling issues and environmental impact.
- Are Plastic Grocery Bags Sacking the Environment? – Explore the ramifications of choosing plastic bags to hold purchases from the store, presented by National Geographic.
- Plastic Bag Pollution (PDF) – People use an estimated 500 billion plastic bags every year, which has had an impact on the environment.
- Plastic Bag and Film Plastics Recycling for Consumers – Some retailers have set up recycling stations to enable consumers to recycle their plastic bags.
- Prevention, Control, and Reduction: Plastics – The United States Environmental Protection Agency offers tips and guidelines for controlling and reducing use of plastics, including plastic bags.
- Plastic, Plastic Everywhere! (PDF) – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has prepared a general lesson plan to teach people about the impact plastic has had on the environment, particularly the ocean.
- Plastic Bags (PDF) – The expense of recycling plastic bags makes this somewhat prohibitive, so many bags go to landfills.
- Waste Reduction Tips – The City of San Diego offers consumers tips for reducing their use of plastic bags, including using cloth bags or even going without a bag for just one or two items.
- Plastics and Environmental Health: The Road Ahead – Explore problems with using plastic and possible methods of disposing of the material.
- Plastic Bag Reduction – B.Y.O.Bag – Some communities have instituted ordinances that ban plastic bags at checkouts.
- Recyclable Plastic Bags (PDF) – When communities recycle plastic bags, they can be reused to make more bags or for other uses such as fencing or building materials.
- Ban the Bag (PDF) – When plastic bags enter the ocean, they become marine debris.
- Plastic Bags – Place clean plastic bags into special recycling receptacles to help prevent negative impact on the environment.
- It’s in the Bag (PDF) – Explore the materials contained in various types of bags to help you decide which ones you wish to use.
Last modified: March 13, 2020