The Harsh Realities of Plastic Bags
No More to Plastic Bags

No More to Plastic Bags

Be Smart, Use your Own Shopping Bags and Make a Lasting DifferenceThere is a scene in American Beauty where a white plastic bag is caught on camera in slow motion; it is tossing in the wind on a dirty sidewalk. The bag goes up and down, left and right, around and around. It could be anything- a bird, or a butterfly, a cloud. The image is moving; presenting the humble plastic bag as an object of beauty.

Except it’s not; it’s a piece of litter on a dirty street; a non-renewable and non-degradable one at that.

It’s hard to see plastic bags as beautiful when we see dirty streets littered with plastic bags. Once they end up as litter, they find their way into our waterways, parks and beaches. Because plastic bags are mostly made from non-renewable and non-degradable materials, they can only be disposed of by means of burying in a landfill or by incineration. Yet neither of these methods is environmentally friendly. Plastic bags buried in the ground take over 200 years to decay, and they will seriously pollute the soil. The harmful smoke and dust and toxic gases produced by burning plastic bags will also pollute the atmosphere. In addition, plastic bags affect our wildlife. Hundreds of thousands of animals such as dolphins, turtles, whales, penguins die every year when they mistake plastic bags for food and ingest them. Worse yet, after being ingested, the plastic bag remains intact even after the death and decomposition of the animal. Thus, it lies around in the environment waiting for another victim to ingest it.

Though plastic bags are nothing good, they do make shopping a lot easier- they’re light weight and strong and provided for free at most shops. These are same reasons why many people are unwilling to give up the use of plastic bags each year. Have you ever wondered how many plastic bags are used annually worldwide? I bet it is an astronomical figure too difficult to work out. UNESCO has used a vivid metaphor to describe the situation – if we are going to cover the surface of the earth with the same number of plastic bags consumed in a year, it will be enough to dress the earth with a few white coats.

Australia Environment Minister Peter Garrett has been calling for a ban on plastic bags since June 2007. While that has yet to become a reality, there is something we can do: reuse the plastic bags we already have. Next time you go shopping, say no to plastic bags; bring your own a canvas bag or straw basket instead. You’ll be saving the earth and looking good for it too.

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Contributing Writer Trish Koh

Contributing Writer Trish Koh

Trish is a writer, translator and a blogger with a BA in Media and Cultural studies. Interests in fashion, beauty, arts, crafts, travel, relationships, lifestyle and women's issues.  Trish's blog is Under Lock and Key.

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