Do We Really Need Single Use Plastic Bags?

These plastic bags are so convenient and easy to use. When they first came out they were viewed as another example of human innovation. Like many of our ‘innovations’ the long term effects these products have on our world is not always so rosy. Single use plastic bags are one of those things (like bottled water) that are truly not necessary at all.

Every major store in our country has bags (sometimes made out of recycled plastic) that are cheap, will last a lifetime and can be used over and over and over. But many of us get into the store, realize we have forgotten our bags and think to ourselves: “I’ll go with plastic this time and remember by bags, which are in the car, next time.” This happens over and over and over. Next time you decide to use a single use plastic bag please consider the following:

  • Greenpeace says that at least 267 marine species are known to have suffered from getting entangled in or ingesting marine debris. Nearly 90% of that debris is plastic.
  • Even when they photo-degrade in landfill, the plastic from single-use bags never goes away, and toxic particles can enter the food chain when they are ingested by unsuspecting animals.
  • Plastic bags are often mistakenly ingested by animals, clogging their intestines which results in death by starvation. Other animals or birds become entangled in plastic bags and drown or can’t fly as a result.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean.
  • Approx. 400 billion plastic bags are used in North America every year.
  • Approx. 100 billion of the 400 billion are plastic shopping bags.

These bags are also very expensive (beyond the expense of destroying our environment). From a composting/recycling perspective sorting these bags is very difficult. Specialized vacuum cleaners that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars are needed to sort through trash to remove torn up plastic bags.

Smaller operations must employ people (only benefit to these plastic bags!) who have to manually sort the garbage so it can be recycled, composted, etc. All of these costs are born by the consumer in the form of higher fees at your local depot or higher taxes from your government run waste management system.

Please consider doing everything you can to eliminate the use of single use plastic bags in your life. It really does make a difference.

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