How many plastic bags do you use every week for errands? What about every month? The average American consumes over 218 pounds of plastic every year.
Now, multiply that number by the total population of the US. There’s no denying that single-use plastic bags have become a commodity in our daily lives. It’s cheap, convenient, and always available no matter where you go.
However, plastic has also become the culprit for environmental pollution and wildlife endangerment. Environmentalists have warned us about the toxic relationship between plastic bags and the environment. Unfortunately, many still don’t understand the environmental impact of plastic bags.
That’s why we’ve created this article as a wake-up call to anyone who still uses plastic. Read on to find out more.
1. Harms Wildlife
Plastic bags are convenient and easy to store because they’re so lightweight. However, it’s also because of this that plastic makes its way into our forests and oceans. Unfortunately, this also means that any wildlife will suffer.
Land animals like squirrels and other small animals can get caught in plastic bags. You may have seen videos online of various animals getting tangled in plastic. Unfortunately, these videos make up only a small percentage of the total number of animals affected by plastic.
Many animals also mistake plastic for food and choke or starve to death. This creates a ripple effect in the natural food chain. When predators are unable the find prey, our natural ecosystems weaken and deteriorate.
Plastic Bags and Marine Animals
Does anyone remember the “Save the Turtles” trend from 2019? Despite the huge ruckus, marine pollution remains a huge problem. Many people made the switch to metal and bamboo straws in an effort to reduce plastic pollution.
However, plastic bags still make their way into our waterways and oceans. Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish. Unfortunately, this has cost the lives of many of these sea creatures.
It isn’t limited to sea turtles, either. Sharks, fish, and seagulls end up starving due to plastic pollution.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Plastic debris has gotten so out of hand that it’s created small islands of waste in our oceans. The best-known example is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
2. Poses Risks to Human Health
A concerning amount of people are unaware of the effects plastic can have on their health. Plastic bags contain chemicals that, when heated, could harm human health. Bisphenol-A, a chemical used to create plastic bags, can contribute to the development of asthma, ulcers, and certain cancers.
Excess amounts of BPA can also cause liver toxicity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Think about it; we often store our groceries in plastic bags. We consume our drinks through plastic straws and bottles. Many fast food chains and convenience stores also offer quick meals in plastic containers.
Lung Complications in Children
Pregnant women exposed to high concentrations of BPA can give birth to children with lung problems. Children can have lower lung capacity and are more prone to developing asthma. Studies also suggest that children are more likely to develop lung and lower respiratory tract infections.
BPA mimics estrogen, which could pose risks to hormonal health. Some studies show that women with a higher BPA level had fewer eggs. Men can also have a lower sperm count.
Unfortunately, there haven’t been enough studies regarding BPA. Because of this, it isn’t clear how much of an impact BPA can have on human reproductive health.
3. Difficult to Clean
The reality is that plastic bags are reusable. When you get a plastic bag, you can use it again for your next shopping trip. The problem is that not enough people practice it.
People accumulate more and more plastic bags with every shopping trip. When they have enough, they gather all their shopping bags and discard them into yet another big plastic trash bag. This is why so much plastic ends up in our landfills.
The Never-Ending Life of Plastic
Add that to the fact that plastic takes anywhere from 20-500 years to decompose. This can depend on the plastic’s structure and environmental factors, like sunlight and whether it’s on water or land. As plastic decomposes, it will release more toxic chemicals into the environment.
Microplastics: The Invisible Threat
Even when plastic breaks down, it only does so into smaller plastic particles. This is what we call microplastics, and they pollute our soil, waterways, and wildlife habitats.
Plastic bags are also difficult to recycle because they get caught in machinery. As a result, less than 1% of the world’s total plastic waste actually gets recycled.
If we can’t recycle plastic waste, where does it go? The sad truth is that it stays in our landfills. The space it consumes continues to grow.
This causes wildlife and human habitats to get even smaller.
4. Chemical Pollution
Some people have attempted to remedy the plastic waste problem by burning it. Unfortunately, this has proven to do more harm than good. Plastics release harmful toxins into the air when burned.
Greenhouse Gas Emission from Decomposing Plastics
Landfills often have hectares of plastic waste, which continue to release greenhouse gases as they degrade. Even the production of plastic shopping bags contributes to global climate change.
Plastics consist of gas and oil, which are non-renewable resources. These resources contain harmful chemicals, including but not limited to:
- Sulfur dioxide
- Carbon monoxide
- Xylene, and
- Hydrogen sulfide
It seems that the only true way to beat plastic pollution is to stop using it. As of now, scientists are still brainstorming solutions to get rid of existing plastic waste. However, we can do our part by making minor adjustments in our lives to limit the amount of new waste.
Switching to reusable canvas bags can make a huge impact on our world. In addition, it’s more durable and environmentally friendly than plastic.
5. Comes From Non-Renewable Resources
Natural gas, coal, and oil are all finite resources. We use these fossil fuels to power our homes, vehicles, and factories. As mentioned prior, we also use them to produce plastic.
Not only do they release toxic gases, but non-renewable resources are also expensive due to their volatility. The best example would be a hike in fuel prices, depending on the state of the economy. Because they’re a finite resource, when they’re gone, there’s no way of getting them back.
Making the Green Energy Shift
That’s why more people are making the switch to solar energy. Solar energy has been effective in powering homes. It’s clean, unlimited, and can make a huge impact on improving our environmental health.
Damages the Earth
Fossil fuels can only be found under the ground. Companies have to mine and drill into the ground to harvest fossil energy for production purposes. This process alone releases harmful toxins that contribute to greenhouse gases.
However, it also leaves permanent damage to the earth. For example, coal mining can destroy forests and natural habitats. Oil spills can contaminate our water supply and make its way to our oceans, harming more marine life.
The Hidden Costs of Plastic Clean-up
Plastic is cheap, but only when you first buy it. It costs 17 cents to clean up one plastic bag. As a result, taxpayers spend $88 every year on cleaning up plastic bag waste.
That’s not even counting other plastic waste like plastic containers and bottles. Cities and other jurisdictions end up spending millions of dollars to maintain their landfills. A large portion of that money also goes to cleaning up pollution from littering.
Reusable Bags: An Economical Alternative
This is another reason why eco-friendly reusable bags are superior to plastic bags. These bags consist of natural materials, and some contain upcycled materials. You only need to buy it once, and you can use it for a whole lifetime.
7. Increases the Risk of Flooding
Urban Drainage Systems Choked by Plastic
We already mentioned that plastic can make its way into our waterways. The unfortunate truth is that many consumers are irresponsible when it comes to discarding waste. Many dump their trash into rivers or allow the wind to take their waste into natural habitats.
Many countries in the world struggle with flooding during typhoons and hurricane season. Nigeria, Ghana, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and the Philippines are only some of the countries affected by plastic waste.
Health Hazards from Polluted Flooding
When there are heavy downpours from torrential rains, the water is unable to escape through drainage systems. This causes water to remain on roads and overflow into houses. The flood that results from plastic pollution is also filthy.
When it rains, plastic clumps other waste materials together. This creates a breeding ground for germs, bacteria, contagious and deadly diseases. As a result, the resulting flood also becomes a health hazard to people in the surrounding area.
Plastic Bags and the Environment
Time to Shift: Embrace Sustainability
It’s clear that plastic bags and the environment are not a good match. Plastic poses a threat to humans and animals throughout its lifespan. Take this as a sign to make smarter and more sustainable decisions before it’s too late.
Go Solar with Chariot Energy
Switching to green, solar energy is good for the environment and your wallet. If you’re looking for sustainable options in Texas, you’ve come to the right place. Chariot Energy offers some of the best solar buyback plans in Texas, so sign up with us today and learn more about your options.