Monday, July 23, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Single-Use Plastic Carry-Out Bags



Single-use plastic carry-out bags are well on their way to being a thing of the past. A flurry of legislation around the globe is quickly taxing or banning the bags, despite the concerted efforts and major financial investment of opposing plastic bag manufacturers like Hilex Poly. San Francisco led the charge by banning the bags back in 2007. They have been banned throughout the entire country of Italy since 2011, and Los Angeles recently became the 49th city in California alone to ban the bags. 

The Problem with Plastic

Although plastic has revolutionized countless industries since its widespread use, it has wreaked havoc on our environment. The problem is that plastic does not biodegrade.  If you take a plastic bag and bury it in a landfill, chances are it will still be pretty much intact 500 or even 1,000 years later. Plastic does photodegrade, but there are two problems with photodegradation. First, it must be exposed to sunlight to occur, and second, it never goes away. As plastic photodegrades, it merely breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. In the process, it releases toxic substances that poison the earth and kill wildlife.

Environmental Impacts

- There are a number of ways single-use plastic carry-out bags harm our environment. One that we witness firsthand every day is pollution. Due to their light weight, plastic bags get blown up against fences, tangle in trees, get caught on street signs and can be found even in some of the most remote landscapes on our planet.
- Plastic bags also clog storm drains, especially in crowded, impoverished cities with poor sanitation facilities. These clogs then cause flooding which can result in epidemic levels of waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid.
- Then there’s the ocean. Everyone’s heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where there exists a suspended island of plastic covering several hundred square miles. As this plastic photodegrades beneath the sun’s rays, tiny toxic particles are ingested by fish and other marine life, causing their death.

What We Can Do

- Plain and simple, start refusing single-use plastic carry-out bags. Bring your own reusable bags to the store, and not just the grocery store. Take them to your pharmacy, shopping mall and everywhere you go. Keep some in your car, your purse and your coat pocket.
- When possible, stop purchasing items wrapped or packaged in plastic. Buy your laundry detergent in a box rather than a plastic jug, and opt for fruit juice bottled in glass rather than plastic. And for goodness sakes – stop buying bottled water!
- Get involved. Take action. Vote. There are a number of ways you can get on board and help put an end to plastic pollution. Join environmental groups dedicated to the cause like Right Bag at ‘Ya! or  the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Be a part of the change that will help heal our planet.

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