Today is International Plastic Bag Free Day! To honour this day, this article will explain why you need to stop using plastic bags and the ways you can do so.
Before 2015, everyone knew that plastic bags were bad for the environment, but they were free and reusable shopping bags were not in every household. Then, on 5th October 2015, the government introduced a 5p charge on plastic carrier bags. While this may have been a nuisance to some people, the 5p charge has worked and reduced the amount sold. Government statistics state that between 2018 to 2019, only 549 million single-use carrier bags were sold in main retailers (I.e. Tesco), which is a dramatic decrease from the 1 billions bags sold from 2017 to 2018. What some people may not know is that just over half of every 5p spent in stores was being donated. A statistic from the same government report shows that from 2015 to 2020, retailers had donated £22 million.
Then, in April 2021, the charge was raised from 5p to 10p. People become even more outraged that they had to pay more for bags. However, would they have been as angry if they understood exactly why these charges were introduced?
So, one reason these charges are in places is because they are have dangerous impacts upon wildlife. Many have seen images of sea life, such as turtles and seals, that have carrier bags wrapped around their necks. Not only do they get caught in them but some mistake the bags as food and eat them, and it is not only aquatic animals that eat carrier bags. An article by Greener Ideal states that animals that do eat them “suffer from intestinal obstructions, which typically lead to long, slow and painful deaths.” The article also states that animals can be poisoned from the chemicals in the plastic, as well as starve from the full feeling within their stomachs. Another article, by Plastic Soup Foundation, reports on a story of a whale that washed up at Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia, in 2018. This whale had 25 plastic bags in its stomach, as well as six kilos of other plastics.
Next, let’s not forget that many plastic objects are created by burning fossil fuels. This process releases many toxic pollutants into the atmosphere that affects animals. Some pollutants that are released can create acid rain, which increases the acidity in bodies of water. This, in turn, affects the wildlife that lives among those waters as they ‘prefer’ a specific acidity level. Those animals that do have a biological preference end up dying.
Also, acid rain is harmful to the environment. According to an article written by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, acid rain “removes minerals and nutrients that trees need to grow.” For those who may not know, vegetation like trees are vital to human survival as they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, giving us the air we need to breathe. Trees are also habitats for many animal species. While people may think they’re safe in their homes, they actually aren’t. Acid particles damage manmade buildings and structures, like walls and statues. Also, when plastic bags are left at dumpsites, they release methane and carbon dioxide when they are decomposing. These gases contribute to climate change, a global phenomenon that will be detrimental to all life on this planet, as well as the planet itself.
Moving on, carrier bags are also detrimental to human health. When the bags break down they turn into microplastics and when these enter the body, they can cause a number of health problems. For example, strokes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. An article by EcoWatch states that high-density polyethylene, which can be found in the plastic that makes carrier bags, can be “dangerous to fetuses and juveniles.” So, plastic bags are not just affecting adults who primarily use them, but unborn children as well.
These are only a slight few ways that plastic bags are impacting upon the environment and our lives, here are a few ways that you can stop:
1.Buy reusable bags – Many stores now sell big and efficient shopping bags, some even have insulation inside for cold foods. Although paying £1 for a bag may seem expensive compared to a 10p carrier, you will actually be saving money as you will not need to buy a carrier every time you go shopping. If you have a car, always keep one or two in the boot, that way you won’t leave them at home and have to buy a carrier bag. If you don’t have a car, have a storage box buy the front door and keep them in there. Then, whenever you leave the house to go shopping, you will see the bags on the way out and remember to take them. Another benefit to reusable shopping bags is that they can be used for other jobs. For example, the IKEA bags can be used a washing bags to carry dirty washing to the washing machine or clean washing to the washing line.
2.Get food delivered – There are many supermarkets that give customers the option of whether they would like their food to be delivered in carrier bags or not. Some supermarkets do not even have that option and do not use carrier bags for online deliveries. When you are online shopping and get the option to have carrier bags or not, choose the ‘not’ option. If the store gives you bags, just hand them back to the delivery driver. By online shopping, you are not venturing out and forgetting your reusable bags, and completely unrelated to carrier bags, you are stopping one less car from being on the road. Although this may insinuate buying takeout, what it actually means is to cook more. Every time you order takeout, that is many plastic containers and bags that the places are using for your food order.
3.Limit bins in your house – Even though it seems essential to have a bin in every room of the house, that is a lot of plastic bags being used to fill each one. Try and limit it to one in the kitchen, one in the bathroom and instead of having one in each bathroom put one on the upper stairs hallway. Also, instead of having bins for your recycling rubbish, have baskets. Then when the basket is full, you can carry it outside to your wheely bins or the accommodation’s trash area.
4.Recycle – If there are any carrier bags in your house, use them along with the reusable shopping bags. For example, take one shopping with you to store any raw meat in. Alternatively, use them around the house for little jobs here and there. The idea of recycling is to get as many uses out of that carrier bag as you can. For example, when you go to the fish and chip shop and they give you a carrier bag to put your food in, take that same carrier bag back to the fish shop every time you go so they can out your food in it. This saves them having to give you a new carrier bag every time.