Plastic bags are everywhere. They are in grocery stores, in people’s home, in trash cans, in landfills, in sewers, in rivers, in oceans, and in the bodies of the animal. Plastic bags are hazardous; they are contributing to plastic pollution which is posing as a huge threat to the modern ecosystem. On the surface, it would seem that use of plastic is cheap and convenient, but there is a deadly price that is paid for that convenience. The real price of using plastic is a deadly one and causes detrimental damage to the environment. The use of plastic bags has already been banned in many countries such as Italy, China, and some parts of The Philippines. Many cities in the United Sates have also opted for a plastic-bag free society, Santa Cruz, California being one of them. But these few places shouldn’t be alone in their fight to ban plastic. Mankind must save their future generations from having to suffer the negative consequences of plastic waste. The United States should ban the use of single-use plastic bags altogether as a country. One of the dangers of using plastics bags is that it is detrimental to the Earth’s soil. Regular materials such as fruits and vegetables only take about a month to decompose completely into the earth.
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However, plastic does not decompose, because it is not biodegradable. This means that plastic bags do not break down like regular biodegradable material. Instead, it will break up into smaller pieces and absorb into the surrounding earth. Furthermore, it is estimated that plastic bags take about 500-1000 years to break apart completely. The estamate of years range vastly because more accurate tests cannot be conducted since plastic bags have only been around for about 50 years. Unfortunately, even though it has only been invented for such a short time, plastic bags’ negative factors have already affected the ecosystem. Furthermore, colored plastic bags can be toxic when it is buried in the many landfills across the world; the toxins seep into the ground and make it infertile for future generations. Rachel Carson, an environmentalist, said that hundreds of millions of years is what it took to create the life that now inhabits the earth.(Carson420). Sadly, because of plastic pollution and the ample use of plastic bags, the earth’s inhabitants are rapidly dwindling and are forced to endure terrible circumstances that are threatening their very existence. Another reason why plastic bags should be banned in the U.S is because many places in the world have already recognized the detrimental damage of plastic bags and have banned there usage. Plastic bag bans have had some slight effect in the United States.
Mike Verespej states that the city of Santa Cruz, California has banned the use of carry-out plastic bags since July 10, 2012. The city has also extended their ban on polystyrene take out products. He also writes “Plastic bag bans are now in place in three of the 14 largest and five of the 29 largest cities in the United States — San Francisco, San Jose, Austin, Seattle and Portland. The nation’s fourth-largest city, Houston, is currently considering a bag-ban proposal.” (Verespej0003). Mexico City and the largest country in the world, China, have also joined the ban against plastic bags. In addition, The Philippines has also recognized the growing problems with plastic bag usage, and about 20 cities have passed bag bans; also, fees on plastic bags and restrictions are not unheard of. (Toloken0010). The Philippines like many other countries in Southeast Asia has seen firsthand the issues of plastic pollution because of poor litter control and the excessive use of plastic bags. Like many of these cities and countries, the United States as a whole should join the others in the fight against plastic in order to keep the environment and the Earth clean. Furthermore, plastic bag use should be banned the U.S because they are not necessary.
One of the main reasons why people use plastic bags is because they are readily accessible almost anywhere. Plastic bags can be easily attained at many stores with the simple phrase “Can I have a plastic bag?” Evidently, the alternative to using plastic bags is adopting the reusable shopping bag. Of course, most people will complain about the inconvenience of having to bring their own sacks every time they go shopping. However, if plastic bags were to be banned completely in the United States, citizens would be forced to bring their own shopping duffels if they want to ease their shopping. The sad truth is that majority of people will not think twice about where the plastic bags will go after it has served its minor purpose, but if they do not start, the reality of plastic pollution will hit them hard before they know it. In addition to being unnecessary, plastic bags should be banned because they pose a huge risk to the safety of many animals and their habitats. A gray whale was found dead with toys, latex gloves, and 20 plastic bags in its stomach.(Keiner157-84).In addition, birds also suffer greatly from plastic pollution. Many birds such as pelicans and albatrosses mistake plastic debris for small colored fish.
Many of them die because their bodies cannot digest any of the plastic. Eventually, the plastic will cut the animal’s stomach or force them to starve to death with a false sense of fullness. Another group of animals that is at risk because of plastic pollution is the sea turtles. Turtles are slowly becoming extinct, and plastic pollution is only adding fuel to the flames. These majestic animals can live up to 150 years but are dying prematurely because of the plastic puncturing their intestines. Plastic particles float on the surface of the water ,and turtles mistake them for jelly fish. Also, plastic rings can get stuck around a turtle’s body and force them to grow with deformities. These poor animals are dying because of the carelessness of the human beings. It is estimated that plastic garbage kills about 1 million birds each year; additionally, 100,000 ocean animals such as dolphins, turtles, seals, and fish also die.(Kiener157-84). If plastic pollution continues, soon humans will start to suffer these effects along with the animals. In addition to harming animals, plastic pollution is destroying the beautiful oceans of this planet. It has been observed that there are patches in the ocean made of plastic and trash debris.
The largest one is called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch; it is made up of trapped hard and soft plastic such as one-time use plastic bags. What is even more appalling is that The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to be the size of Texas and has the consistency of soup. Furthermore, the fishes and birds that live near and on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is exposed to deadly toxins. What makes conditions even worse is that oil from spills gets trapped in the Garbage Patch and is consumed by the fishes and birds poisoning them. Lindsay Bloomsberg from Environmental Magazine writes that most things about the garbage patch is debatable but “what is known for certain is that the marine debris in the North Pacific Gyre is 80% plastic and it’s mostly coming from land. When plastic bottles, cups and bags are dropped in the street, rain washes them into storm sewers, rivers and eventually the ocean.” (Bloomsberg8). This means that humans are the ones causing this sad catastrophe. For such an abomination to exist and have a name is shameful for humans as a species.
In addition to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Mekong River in Southeast Asia is also heavily polluted with plastic. Many images showcase a river so polluted with plastic that the water cannot even be seen because the surface is cluttered with so much floating debris. United States has always been the number one supporter of people’s rights. It was the first to give women voting rights, the first to give African Americans voting rights, and is increasingly lenient with gays’ rights. The United States should allow the animals and the environment the right live and thrive as naturally as possible. The use of plastic bags throughout the United States is putting a strain on the environment and the world. It is agreed upon that America knows how to handle plastic pollution in a matter that makes it seem like it does not even exist. However, the proof is in the pudding — in this case, the landfills. Consumers of this country are using plastic bags every single day; it is estimated that the average family in the U.S accumulates 60 plastic bags in only of 3 weeks of shopping. Clearly the U.S should recognize it’s usage of plastic bags is contributing to the plastic pollution of this era. Of course, the United States is not the only country that is causing this problem, but if it decides to join the other nations in banning plastic bags, a message will be sent to the world that the use plastic bags is a cunning enemy of this planet.
Many plastic bag industries argue that if plastic bags were banned, many people would lose their jobs, and that it would have a devastating effect on the economy; however, this is not true. The use of plastic bag cost much more than meets the eye. Evidently, plastic bags may seem cheap and free but as the saying goes, nothing in this world is free. Saying that the production of plastic bags uses a lot of oil is an understatement. China is a country that has already banned plastic bags not only because it is environmentally friendly but saves money as well. “Production of plastic packaging devours 37 million barrels of oil a year. Cutting that figure would help the planet as well as China’s balance sheet.”(Bates35). In addition to being oil consuming, plastic bags can also prove to be pricey if they get stuck in the wrong places .When plastic bags get trapped in sewers and tunnels underground, they clog up pipes and storm drains; it can be very expensive to fix. Also, stores deceive consumers when they make the plastic bag seem free, but the truth of the matter is that consumers are paying for the plastic bags in the higher prices of food.
Last but not least, when plastic bags get into the environment, it can cost a city thousands of dollars to clean it up. Not to mention the damage that plastic has on the environment. Rachel Carson writes that this era is “dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged.”(Carson425). Thus leading to this conclusion, the price paid for using plastic bags is greater than the effects of plastic bag bans. Another argument arises when it comes to banning plastic bags, and that is that reusable plastic bags are unsafe and can harbor harmful bacteria. Angela Logomasini writes “Single-use plastic bags are more sanitary than reusable grocery bags. A 2009 study by Sporometrics, a Canadian research lab, discovered that reusable bags harbor a considerable amount of bacteria that doesn’t wash off easily.”(Kiener157-184). This is true; with frequent use, reusable shopping bags can harbor bacteria, but one can get rid of those bacteria with the use of anti-bacterial wipes and alcohol. It is the same concept as a toilet seat.
Sure, it can get dirty with frequent use, but people cannot buy new toilet seats every time they use the restrooms. They must take preliminary actions and clean their items with each use. What is more disturbing is that people don’t realize they can be eating their own trash. To illustrate, fish sometimes mistakes plastic particles for plankton because in some areas it can outweigh plankton 48-1. Therefore, when humans throw their trash in the sea, the fishes are harmed by consuming the plastic; then when humans eat the fish, they are consuming plastic as well. David Suzuki explains that everything is connected, he says “In such a world of interconnectedness, it is understood that every action has consequences, and when we were part of that world, we had responsibility to act properly to keep the world in order.”(Suzuki428). The thought of eating your own plastic trash is much more disgusting than having to clean the inside of a reusable grocery bag. All in all, the process of banning plastic bags in the United States will not be easy, but it will guarantee the beginning of a safer and more environmentally friendly world. Some may not agree with its immediate effect but if they continue on using plastic bags, the world would be in danger in a matter of years.
Human beings as well as animals will suffer the consequences of plastic pollution while landfills are becoming the current monuments of this generation. Animals are dying for human conveniences at the retail stores; the land people call home is becoming deformed from the ground up; the seas that holds nearly 50 percent of life on this earth is being poisoned. If this issue does not stop, the earth’s number of days will dwindle dramatically. Everything has a way of intertwining in the end, the animals are suffering right now because of plastic pollution and soon humans will suffer along with them. Plastic trash is accumulating right under the nose of society and the people must wake up, take a deep breath, and do something about it. Out of sight is not out of mind, plastic bags will become the earth’s downfall if it doesn’t stop now.
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