According to scientists, the world utilizes between 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags in a year. Disposable plastic is made from petroleum products, which cannot be reused or recycled. After they are utilized for the first time, these disposable plastics are thrown away either haphazardly or into a landfill. They then break into smaller pieces that harm the environment by polluting the soil, causing trouble for land animals, choking and trapping sea animals, and polluting water bodies. If burned, plastic bags also pollute the air we breathe with poisonous fumes (The Environmental Literacy Council, n.d.). Consequently, the United States government should ban plastic bags to reduce negative environmental effects associated with the use of the disposable plastics bags.
Disposable plastic can be hazardous to the environment and its occupants, namely humans, especially children, and animals by posing suffocation and pollution threats. There is an evidence that disposable plastic has resulted in suffocation and even death of a number of people (West, 2014).
1. Disposable Plastic Bags Pose Threats to Human and Animal Life
Because it is costly and difficult to recycle disposable plastic, such products end up in landfills or litter the environment haphazardly. Disposable plastics take about 1,000 years to photodegrade. These bags break into smaller poisonous particles that pollute waterways and the soil. They finally enter the food chain, through which humans and animals ingest them accidentally through the foods they consume (West, 2014).
Disposable Plastic Bags Suffocate and Kill Humans and Animals
A relevant example to this argument is that disposable plastic bags break down each year into smaller pieces. These pieces remain dangerous as land and sea animals consume them. Fish, birds, turtles and many marine animals die each year as a result of this. Worse still, as the animals (for example, fish) die, they are further eaten by animals that are placed higher in the food chain (like sharks), transferring problem to more animals (The Guardian, 2015).
Another illustration of the issue is shown in numerous researches that suggest that thousands of animals are killed each year due to the disposable plastic bags. In particular, a number of sea animals like turtles, dolphins, and penguins die each year because of this. Land animals are neither spared as they ingest the plastics that slowly but surely lead to the animals death (Sherwin, 2014).
Disposable plastic bags are a danger not only to humans, but to other animals and the environment in general. They can cause death through choking, as well as leading to pollution of the environment.
Disposable Plastic Bags Are Non-Biodegradable
Furthermore, disposable plastic bags are non-biodegradable. This simply means that disposable plastic bags cannot be recycled as it is either too difficult or too expensive to recycle them. The natural decomposition of disposable plastic bags takes more than 1,000 years to break down (West, 2014).
Petroleum Is Used in Making Disposable Plastic Bags
First, disposable plastic bags are made as a by-product of petroleum, which is a nonrenewable resource. This means that at one time, crude oil will be absolutely depleted. Petroleum is important for day-to-day chores of the whole humanity, including running of factories, supporting transportation, lighting, and manufacturing important products like tires. So far, there are no viable energy sources that can replace petroleum. This implies that if the supply of petroleum is to be exhausted, then our lives will literally grind. It is, therefore, important that this precious resource is saved and not wasted to make disposable plastic bags.
Second, during the manufacture of the disposable plastic bags, noxious gases are released. Production of plastic bags requires large amounts of petroleum. The disposable plastic bags photograde but do not biodegrade. This simply means that the plastic breaks down to smaller pieces that end up in sea and ocean bottoms. These small pellets of plastic bags are not easy to clean. Marine animals and birds may mistake the pellets for food and consume them. As time goes on, the plastic pellets fill the animals and birds bodies. When humans consume these animals (fish, crocodiles, and whales) and birds as food, the toxic muddle ends up in our bodies. Surprisingly, sea birds are said to have about 90% of plastic in their guts (The Guardian, 2014).
Finally, petroleum used in making these plastic bags emits poisonous gases that are toxic to the environment. As petroleum is a nonrenewable resource, it should be used for more important things like lighting up homes and not making plastic bags.
2. Disposable Plastic Bags Cause Pollution
Use of disposable plastic bags usually ends up in landfills or is scattered around us. This is because disposable plastic bags are not only difficult but costly to recycle. These bags break into smaller pieces with time and end up contaminating our waterways and the soil. The earth is everyday choked with excess of these bags. They are easy to carry and also easy to be discarded, which explains why their usage has increased in the recent past (as from the 80s). As an illustration, just by looking around us anytime, there is a big chance that we will see these plastic bags hanging from trees, in trenches, or flying when it is windy. They can also be seen floating in rivers and water systems. The disposable plastics clog drains causing floods when it rains. Apart from causing water and soil pollution, plastic bags also irritate many pedestrians when left scattered.
Lastly, it is not only manufacturing of these plastics that results in air contamination. Indeed, the process of breaking down these petrol-based disposable plastics releases greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere. Carbon and methane gases are harmful and are said to cause global warming.
3. Banning of Disposable Plastic Bags Can Be Implemented
A Number of Countries Have Seen Positive Effects of Banning Disposable Plastics
Recently, countries like China, that has banned free plastic bags, and Bangladesh, that has prohibited the use of plastic bags, have all seen positive environmental effects. In Africa, Rwanda has completely banned the use of plastic bags and heavy penalties are slapped on abusers. Other countries like South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Canada, Israel, and Singapore either have banned or are currently in the process of legislating banning of the use of disposable plastic bags. In Europe, Ireland became the first country to prohibit the use of disposable plastic bags, and now more countries are said to follow it (Hanif, 2011).
How the Ban Works
As an illustration, the government can prohibit the use of disposable plastic bags by forbidding their production by the prime manufacturers. Retailers in supermarket and shops should be then prohibited from giving customers disposable plastic bags as well. On the other hand, customers are in their turn advised to come with their own reusable bags; otherwise, supermarkets should provide them with paper bags that they can pay some designated amount for. The populace is simultaneously educated on the importance of using reusable bags and the reason why disposable plastic bags have been banned (Hanif, 2011).
To support this point, it is estimated that every person uses about 83 disposable plastic bags a year (Jacobs, n.p.). By reusing several bags while shopping or travelling, the customers can eliminate a number of plastic bags every year. If every country banned the use of these plastic bags, then the use of plastic bags could greatly be reduced, and the environment could be saved.
To sum up, the government can prohibit the manufacture and use of plastic bags to save the environment. They can educate the public on the dangers of using plastic bags while introducing eco-friendly bags that can be reusable.
Use of disposable plastic bags is not only harmful to the environment but also endangering human beings and animals. It is, therefore, important for individuals to switch to a friendlier alternative that is safe environmentally. Consequently, the United States government should go an extra mile and ban the use of plastic bags. Disposable plastic bags kill a number of humans and animals each year. The bags also litter the environment and pollute it through toxic fumes. When the disposable plastic bags break into smaller pieces, they end up in water systems and soil. They not only contaminate the water and soil, but also end in human and animals bodies. Further, the production of the plastic bags uses great amounts of petroleum, which is a nonrenewable resource. This energy ought to be used in more meaningful uses like heating our homes. If the government successfully bans the use of these deposable plastic bags, it will help in saving lives, reduce contamination and make the Earth more environmentally friendly to live on.
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