Its hard to say when we began to turn into obsessive consumers but nobody can doubt that we are just that. At least most of us! A direct result of this is heavy dependence on plastic bags. From USA to Africa, from Asia to Australia, everybody is guilty of using them at some point in their lives. What does this mean for the environment?
First of all, a plastic bag can take up to 500 years to break down and decompose. The irony here is that we usually use a bag just once and then toss it in the garbage. So its no surprise that the number of plastic bags used around the world in a day is tremendously high. A recent study estimates that in a year, as much as a trillion bags are consumed worldwide. This translates into considerable landfill and pollution. Not all bags end up in a landfill, however. Some enter rivers, sewers and even seas. They block waterways and drainages and create more pollution issues.
In the oceans, plastic bags float and mislead turtles and other marine animals that swallow them as food. Some marine biologists think that plastic bags seem like jellyfish, an appetizer, to some marine life. These bags can even drift far away into the doldrums, where many of the floating junk accumulates and may create new water pollution problems in the near future.
Plastic bags are thin and light which means they are easily carried by the wind. They are easily blown around and get caught on trees, littering gardens and parks. Not only is this unsightly but it can kill small animals such as insects and birds. Plastic bags seem harmless enough to an adult human but they can suffocate unsuspecting animals and even babies.
Can plastic bags be burnt and got rid of that way? Its possible yes, but impractical because of the greenhouse gases that are emitted in the process. These gases play a direct role in global warming. In fact, even the production process of plastic bags releases such toxic gases that remain in the atmosphere for a considerable time.
So next time you pick up a plastic bag, thinking its so convenient, light and cheap, think again. The true cost of the plastic bag you are holding is staggering and the weight of this burden is shared by all of us.