We are literally living in a plastic world. A recent research estimates show that around 2 million plastic bags are used every minute around the world, with less than 3% being recycled globally. A 2014 UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) report estimates about10 to 20 million tons of plastic finding its way into the world’s oceans each year. Do you know that so much plastic is dumped into the sea each year that it would fill five carrier bags for every foot of coastline on the planet, scientists have warned. Around 8 million tons of plastic bottles, bags, toys and other plastic rubbish ends up in the world’s oceans each year.
Plastic bags are a big threat to our environment, because a single plastic bag takes 1000 hours to decay completely as they are made of petrochemicals which are nonrenewable. This means that the plastic bags will stay for a longer period of time and damage our Mother Nature. In the ocean, there are 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world, it’s twice the size of Texas! Sadly, the pieces of plastic are outnumbering sea life in the ratio of 6:1. We are sitting on a big time bomb called plastic.
Clearing plastic is a costly business: The plastic litter has to be picked up and cleared properly. In one year, the cost of clearing littered plastic bags in one big country like UK is approximately ten million pounds. If the plastic bags did not exist in the first place, this cost could be saved and used for some other purpose. The plastic bags that we take end up as litter; as much as we try to be responsible with how we deal with our trash? Some of these end up in landfills and they take many years to decompose. Environmental campaigners tell us that once in the landfill, the plastic will take about 1000 years before they decompose. Let’s not forget the cause of floods in Mumbai during 26th July 2005. The culprit for the massive floods were Plastic bags, they had clogged all the major drainage points which caused the deadly floods.
They create a threat to wildlife: The loosely littered plastic bags find their way into the environment; they become a hazard to the birds, animals and fish as they choke them. The most vulnerable are marine wildlife since they often find their way to the waters. Generally, more than 260 species of marine animals are affected by plastic debris in the ocean, either by digestion or entanglement. Laysan Albatross, sea turtles, monk seals, whales and many species of fish have been found with large amounts of plastic in their stomachs.
Many times when a fish, sea mammal or sea bird swallows the particles found in these plastic, the gut becomes blocked and this can easily and quickly harm the organism or in some instances even kill it. Birds can also mistake them for nesting material or for fish and should they entangle their legs or heads in them, they then die.
In the creation of plastic bags, finite natural resources such as oil are consumed. One research showed that more than a hundred million oil barrels are used yearly in the making of plastic around the world. In the US alone, approximately 12 million barrels of oil is used to make the plastic bags that Americans consume annually. Plastic production worldwide uses around 8% of the world’s oil production. Plus, the manufacturing process, transportation and disposal require large quantities of non-renewable resources and release equally large amounts of global-warming gases.
Ironically we use these bags for about 20 minutes and then discard them aimlessly. We see them littered along the railway line, housing colonies, on roads, Is this what we want? Isn’t this a foolish act of ourselves against us? As plastic bags are not bio-degradable, the only way to get rid of them is by burning them up, but it leads to emission of toxic fumes which increases pollution and causes deadly diseases like cancer.
It is high time we say bye to plastic because they only make our world ugly. Two schoolgirls Melati and Isabel Wijsen in Bali Island in Indonesia rallied their classmates to battle the fight against plastic they convinced their governor to commit to a plastic bag-free Bali by 2018. The island will soon be free of plastic bags, and the rest of Indonesia is getting ready to fight plastic usage. Plastic bag bans work. Several other countries already ban or restrict them, including Bangladesh and China, where its use fell radically. Getting Bali to say bye-bye to the pollution could be the first step in making Indonesia plastic bag free.
Let’s take an oath in this New Year to gradually get rid of our plastic addiction. Let us start using reusable baskets and reusable tote bags, let us curb the need for plastic bags. There are innovative people out there, who already have smart solutions for everything.