Why are Plastic Bags a Problem?
They are harmful to the environment.
• Takes 1000 years to decompose into smaller pieces, which seep down into the soil and release chemicals, which eventually reach the water supply.
• Kills animals in the water when they eat plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish
• Builds up in landfills
• Manufacturing of plastic bags is harmful to the environment because nonrenewable resources are used (petroleum and natural gas). The manufacturing process itself uses toxic chemicals, pollutes the atmosphere and consumes energy.
• The transportation of the billions of plastic bags produced annually means further energy consumption, largely in the form of more petroleum.
• Stores give out unlimited amounts of plastic bags for FREE even when the costumer doesn’t really need one
• Cost in terms of energy and manpower is greater than the value of the material produced
SHOPPING CULTURE IN EARLIER DAYS
Before the advent of poly-bags, people did shop, buy things, bring eatables from the market, and did the same marketingas is done now. How did they did it? The raw material for the bag was decided by its usage. Cloth bags for lighter items, Gunny bags/Jute bags forvoluminousand heavier goods. The cost did not justify use and discard attitude. These bags were washable and reusable lasting for six months to a year.
PLASTIC HAZARDSThe hazards plastics pose are numerous. The land gets littered by plastic bag garbage presenting an ugly and unhygienic seen. The "Throw away culture" results in these bags finding their way in to the city drainage system, the resulting blockage cases inconvenience, difficult in maintaining the drainage with increased cost, creates unhygienic environment resulting in health hazard and spreading of water borne diseases. This littering also reduces rate of rain water percolating, resulting in lowering of already low water levels in our cities. The soil fertility deteriorates as the plastic bags form part of manure remains in the soil for years.
Apart from causing soil pollution, sewage blockages, cattle and mainly marine creature’s mistake plastic for food directly or indirectly, blocking digestion and possibly causing starvation. About 44 percent of all seabirds eat plastic, apparently by mistake, sometimes with fatal effects. And 267 marine species are affected by plastic garbage—animals are known to swallow plastic bags, which resemble jellyfish in mid-ocean. Apparently according to one research plastics at oceans are actually degrading and releasing toxic chemicals and causing water pollution.
Is it not enough that we already burn tonnes of oil and destroy the delicate balance of nature; Is it not enough that our power hungry nature has pushed many a species to extinction? The excuse that the common man really don't realize what he is doing to the Eco system is no longer acceptable. While a few of us burn ourselves day in and day out working to protect our fragile planet, the rest of us are happily dumping her with tonnes of garbage, and not just any garbage , the most toxic non-biodegradable, plastics. Let us be very clear here, we have only one earth and only one chance. The Earth will not take this hands down. She is raging, and when her rage will hit us with full force, there will be no light of the day for the human race anymore. Already the production of plastics uses up a lot of fossil fuels and is endangering marine life. And if the lay man does not wake from his long slumber of sweet dream and face the reality, I am afraid there is no help for the turtles and other marine birds that have been affected directly by plastic pollution.
It has been observed that the animals eating the bags sometimes die. Plastic goes into the ocean which is already a plastic infested body of water. Fish and other marine species in the water ways, misunderstanding plastic garbage as food items swallow them and die.
The various other alternatives:
- Use biodegradable bags made from fabrics.
- Ladies can fold a cotton bag or two in to their purses which can be used to quench their sudden urge for shopping.
- Nylon bags can be used and reused several times.
- Donate old news papers and magazines to small scale institutes that cut these old papers in to paper bags and packets.
- Use a wicker basket. (They can make a fashion statement today.)
- Educate the local retailers on the ill effects of use of plastics.
- Insist your local retailers to use plastic bags of thicker variety if at all he has to use.
- Offices can distribute canvas bags as New Year gifts instead of diaries and other sweet nothings.
- Better still buy a foldable shopping trolley. When you can buy a stroller for your new born this is not impossible you see.
- The common man is already burdened with spiraling prices, so I don’t wish to suggest to the government to impose a plast-tax. Mere ban will fail, as it has in the previous.
All we need to do is come back to the simpler lives we once lived. Break away from the habit of buying avoidable plastic bags. Carry a cloth/jute bag always. Bring awareness about the harmful effects of plastic to the people around you.
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As you open the gate of your home to go out, you will probably step over used plastic bags, empty biscuit wrappers or even empty pan masala pouches, strewn everywhere from the the street. All over the street, in the drains and on the pavements there are discarded plastic packets and bottles, used packaging and numerous packets with wasted food from the surrounding eateries. Plastic is a scourge that seems to have grown to alarming proportions.
The reason why plastic is an environmental hazard is because it is one of the few modern chemical materials that is not biodegradable. Polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, and polystyrene are the composition base in the manufacture of plastics. These synthetic polymers are easily moulded into complex shapes and have high chemical resistance. Because of these properties they are used to manufacture several durable or disposable goods and for packaging materials.
However, plastic is resistant to biodegradation. A discarded plastic bottle can remain in a land fill for millions of years, so just consider the thousands of plastic bottles we discard on a daily basis. Bangalore alone generates roughly 40 tons of plastic waste per day, so is the city headed for environmental disaster?
Shalini of KKPKP (Kagad Kach Patra Kashtaka Panchayat), Pune, says: “The average human in India uses three kg of plastic per person per year. That's far lower than the European who consumes 60 kg per year, and the American who consumes 80 kg. Because we are so populous, the amount of plastic consumed is mindboggling and our disposal habits make it a health hazard. As long as our homes are clean, we are fine; throw all the plastic waste on the road for the corporation sweeper to clean. If they do not, we just sit back and grumble that the municipality is doing nothing.”
That's one reason why drains get clogged in Bangalore during the rains. Look into the open storm water drains which are invariably filled with all sorts of junked plastic. Milk sachets, mineral water bottles, grocery bags, empty plastic cans and containers.A recent trip to Goa and Ooty were definite eye openers. Earlier, both holiday destinations had waste plastic clogging everything from lakes, where tourists took boat rides, to beaches, where even a sea bath meant bringing up discarded fishermen's nets around your ankles.
Today, both cities have a very strict ban on plastic and the results are clearly obvious. What makes it a workable solution is the local population too have enforced the ban, taking personal pride in keeping their cities and market areas free from plastic. Buy fish from the local fisherwoman in the market in Goa and if you have not carried your own cloth bag she will wrap your fish or prawns in newspaper and thrust it in your hands! Ooty has stylish-looking newspaper bags in which your tea, chocolates and spices will be handed over.
We have also aped the disposable culture of the West and over the last decade use everything from disposable razors and pens to large quantities of fancy packaging. Apples or pears are pushed into honeycomb plastic packing to keep them from getting damaged in transit.
What happened to filling our pens with ink or the biscuits that we bought from the baker sans plastic trapping? Maybe we need to take a step back in time and go back a decade to when we did not need the fancy packing.
We all need to take responsibility for this pollution which threatens to overwhelm the city. Carry a shopping bag like we did in the old days or put a basket into the dickey of your car into which you can fill a whole shopping cart. Stop buying bottled water; instead, buy a food grade plastic water bottle and carry your own water. Leave packaging behind in the shop, especially of large white goods, so it can be recycled rather than carry it home. If each of us cut back on our consumption of plastic responsibly, there will be much less floating around the garbage dumps in the city.