Plastic Products are one of the most important materials in our hands, and it has become difficult for us to imagine our world without these important articles. Plastic products are used in the manufacture of many tools and for medical equipment and health products, as well as for most of the needs of our daily lives.
One of the most important plastic products we use on a daily basis is plastic bags, which are cheap and easy to produce. Humans use “between” 500-1000 billion bags a year in the world – an average of 90 bags for every human being on earth! These plastic bags only have a short lifespan and invariable end up littering our land and waterways. As an environmental issue this is of great concern.
The ability of plastics to exist for long periods of time, withstanding the effects of erosion and weather, means they can cause many problems for the environment. Such problems include:
If burned, they release chlorine oxide and carbon dioxide, both of which are harmful to the ozone layer. Such an action also causes the release of other gasses, acids and toxic compounds which are harmful to the health of humans.
With the help of the wind, plastic bags are easily carried into the atmosphere where they cannot be controlled.
Subsequently, they are dispersed in large quantities all over the ground or become entangled with electrical wires and trees. Furthermore, they not only become an aye sore as they litter the streets, but they can also enable the spread of infectious diseases.
They are also carried to agricultural areas where they harm the soil and crop collection as they form a barrier between the earth and the roots of the plant.
Their presence in coastal regions poses to the marine life, as they can wrap around the head of coral and fish. Once covered, these creatures become cut off from water, which subsequently obstructs their access to oxygen, causing them to suffocate and die.
Each year large number of organisms dies in areas polluted by plastic bags. Marine life, like dolphins and fish, often mistakenly ingest these bags, clogging their intestine which results in death by starvation. As the colour of the plastic bags are often similar to that of marine algae, birds on the land and at sea are often suffocated when their heads become encased by these bags.
Livestock, like cows and sheep eat grass containing decomposing plastic material, or even entire plastic bags. Once ingested, the harmful chemicals used to produce the plastic are then transferred to humans when eating the meat of these animals. This can lead to cancer in humans which may cause death or may alter the genetic makeup of a person for future generations.
Some believe that the use of paper bags would be a good alternative as they can rapidly decompose; however, removing large numbers of trees from forest in order to manufacture paper can disrupt would and ecosystem. Plus, a tremendous amount of energy is required to convert trees into pulp and then manufacture paper from the pulp. The fact remains that both plastic and paper bags have a negative impact on the environment.
Research and studies have confirmed that using plastic bags to transport hot meals can be harmful to the health of humans, as the materials used in their production react with the hot food.
The best alternative is the use of a reusable bag made of cloth and hand craft made of plastic bags. Consumers can support markets and business centres that provide permanent reusable bags at nominal prices for customer shopping. The will contribute to the preservation of the environment and reduce the dependence on harmful plastic bags. Environment is ours to save, THINK!