V-help: Do away with the plastic bag

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Do away with the plastic bag

A boon that’s turned into a bane is the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag. Its ease of availability, usefulness and inexpensiveness, strength, property of being water proof and hygienic has led to its abuse and overuse. They are everywhere and its presence has turned into a menace for our ecosystem causing pollution, killing marine life and using up precious resources. The environmental harm caused by these plastic bags is irreversible and will effect generations to come.

Due to its light weight, they litter easily and are hard to contain and dirty the landscape. They get entangled in trees, branches and fences and are an eyesore. From here it finds its way to the waterways, parks, beaches and ocean. Floating bags are mistaken for food by marine animals like jellyfish and ingested. Every year thousands of whales, penguins, turtles and dolphins lose their lives due to ingesting these bags. These bags still remain intact after the death and decay of the animals and remain to cause further harm to life and earth. Even land animals that are scavenging for food, fall victim to it by chocking or starving to death on these bags. This damages our fragile ecosystem.

These bags are non biodegradable and it’s said that they take many hundred years to decompose, giving out toxic by products. Burning these bags gives out toxic fumes that pollute the air and water. Most bags end up in landfills and prevent ground water from seeping properly and can harm plant life and vegetation. They block drainage and harm the sewage system. Choked drains cause floods and also form areas for breeding of disease producing organisms.

These bags also use up a natural resource that’s non renewable-petroleum which could be used as fuel. Their use in large numbers is steadily eating into the resource and also causing damage due to extraction of petroleum. They are hazardous to produce and dispose off too.

There is very little market for recycled plastic. Very few plastic bags are recycled.

The statistics on the use of these bags are mind boggling. It’s estimated that more than a million bags are consumed and discarded every minute! Plastic bags as litter are now commonplace even in remote places like Antarctica. Most nations now recognize the problem caused by these seemingly harmless convenience and are taking steps to control and lessen its use if not completely eradicate it. Countries like Ireland have imposed a tax on it which has lessened its use, cut back on litter and saved millions of litres of oil. Other countries like Bangladesh have totally banned its use where the clogging of its drainage system by these bags had caused severe floods in a large part of the country repeatedly.

Solution to this enormous and pressing environmental problem can be multi pronged. Educating people on its harm and preventing its superfluous use can go a long way in taking care of its ill effects. Finding alternative materials like cloth, paper etc which are biodegradable would lessen the evil. Overuse of paper too can lead to loss of another resource, the tree and its wood. Work is on to find other suitable safer materials for similar use. Carrying your own shopping bag while making purchases is good way to help out. Businesses too could save on costs by helping to reduce their use.

Instead of waiting for directives from regulations, we can help curb this environmental hazard by being aware and taking baby steps to limit the use of these bags. This could go a long way in leaving the world a better place for future generations to come. Lets gift our children a world free from this man made hazard which is threatening the basis of life on earth.

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