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Plastic can be defined as: any group of synthetic or natural organic materials that may be shaped when soft, which will later harden. Plastic has been around for more than 150 years. In 1839 Charles Goodyear accidently discovered the process of vulcanization, the process of making rubber more durable, which evolved into the creation of plastics later on. In 1846, Swiss chemist Charles Schonbein discovered how to produce the plastic polymer known as celluloid. In 1909, chemist Leo Baekeland created Bakelite, the first true synthetic polymer that could be molded and shaped into a solid object. Due to the scientific discoveries of these men, one of the most used materials in the world to this day was created. In the United States plastic materials are used in both industrial and commercial life.
It is a material that is largely integrated into today’s common lifestyle, and can be used in many product areas. The creation of plastic was scientifically ground breaking, however there are consequences to using this moldable material. New York is a city that generates a lot of revenue for the state. With many stores, businesses, and busy people the use of plastic materials is a luxury. Without even realizing it, the people of New York City use plastic materials more than they think they do. Such as, the early morning business man who commutes to Wall Street to go to work. He takes the subway within the city, using a metro card. He then sits on the plastic seats inside the train, then gets a coffee in a plastic cup at a nearby café. He goes into the office and then sits on his office chair which can be made up of plastic material. Since plastic materials are used frequently in our daily lives, I believe it should be banned as a good first step in reducing the use of plastic materials. New Yorkers should strive to lessen the use of plastic by replacing plastic bags with other material alternatives, such as biodegradable or reusable bags. Plastic bags are very popular with both retailers and consumers because they are inexpensive, sturdy, lightweight, functional, and hygienic in means of carrying food as well as other goods.
Even though they are modern conveniences that make our lives easier, they are responsible for causing pollution, killing wildlife, and using up the precious resources of the earth. Americans use up to a billion plastic bags per year. However, we do not realize the harm that plastic bags emit. For instance, plastic bags are among the items that are non-biodegradable. It can take up to thousands of years for plastic to decay into small pieces. This is because decomposing bacteria cannot feed on plastic. Companies that produce plastic bags deplete Earth of its natural resources. Most common plastic bags are made from polyethylene. This material is made from crude oil and natural gas. These resources need to be conserved and the production of plastic bags does the opposite, thus lessening the already limited amount of natural resources. Plastic bags are difficult and costly to recycle and most of the time ends up on landfill sites where they take a long period of time to decay. They break down into toxic particles that contaminate the soil, they also impact the waterways by clogging up gutters and drains causing water and sewage to overflow and become the breeding grounds of germs and bacteria that cause diseases. It is also easy for plastic bags to enter the food chain when animals accidentally consume them.
Plastic bags are amongst the top items of debris most often to be found along coastlines. Animals and sea creatures are hurt and killed by discarded plastic bags because they mistake plastic bags for food. Plastic clogs their intestines and leads to slow starvation. Others can become entangled in plastic bags and drown. These are all-important factors that have a profound effect on our environment and the organisms we share our planet with. We should not put our own selfish needs before the needs of everything around us, and the lives of future generations. Society’s involvement with plastic bags is harmful to humans and the environment. This can be looked at as a chain effect because eventually if one factor of an environment becomes greatly affected then it will affect many other factors, all leading up to catastrophic effects. Such as, if plastic bags are overused in the future, there is a chance of reduction of the fish and wildlife population. This can contribute to the various diets that humans have. Also, if plastic bags are continued to be overly manufactured and take up a lot of natural resources, it will take thousands of years for Earth to naturally replenish these natural resources.
Thus, society will have a decrease in the use of natural gas. For example in New York, some city buses are run on natural gas. This is why plastic bag banning should be a public concern. If New York can reduce the amount of plastic material it uses, then why not? However, one might say that no one has the right to tell New Yorkers that they cannot use a plastic bag. There is a misconception about plastic bag ban regulations. Some feel that a plastic bag ban imposes on individual rights. However, they do not take away individual rights. Instead, a plastic bag ban regulation ensures individual rights. Individual rights can be defined as the rights held by individual people. Being able to choose and have choices in certain situations fall under having individual rights. The plastic bag ban regulations ensure individual rights because a bag ban forces the retailer to give a choice. The laws prohibit retailers from giving you a plastic bag. By prohibiting retailers from giving away plastic bags, society then must figure out another way to get their goods home. As an individual you can go buy all the plastic bags that you want. No law prohibits you from doing this. However, you will pay for those plastic bags. Society has been given plastic bags by the merchant when we purchase their goods. It has become a convenience.
However, in reality, we have always paid for those bags. The merchant has to figure the cost of the bags into the stores budget. They add a few cents to the goods to pay for the bags. For example, if the cost of milk is $3.26 the retail merchant will increase the price by a couple of cents to pay for his profit for the plastic bags. The retail merchant has to pay a cost when they buy the plastic bags from the factories that produce them. In fact, one statistic says you pay around $50 per year for those “free” plastic bags. With a plastic bag ban, everyone has a choice. Without a ban, everyone pays. If you want a bag, then you pay for it. That is what makes it a choice.
Dozens of countries and cities around the world, including 47 towns in California alone, have adopted laws for banning plastic bags. The factors that convinced them to ban the plastic bags were that cities must spend a lot of money to clean up the bags and the damages caused by them. This is money that would be better spent elsewhere. Also, plastic bags are a threat to the environment, polluting waterways and other natural areas and killing off animals. Many activists say that banning plastic bags will redirect funds to come up with alternatives to plastic. In San Jose, California, it costs about $1 million a year to repair recycling equipment jammed with plastic bags. San Francisco estimates that to clean up, and recycle landfill plastic bags costs 17 cents a bag, or approximately $8.5 million a year. A ban would save approximately $18 to $30 per person annually.
Bans are often considered a government attack on private business. With plastic bags it is a product that is naturally flawed. The bags are lightweight, aerodynamic, indestructible, and made specifically to be easily discarded. Hence the reason why they can easily be found floating in the streets. The universal plastic bag serves many purposes, but it is not irreplaceable. With a ban on disposable plastic bags, consumer demand will shift toward alternatives, such as biodegradable bags, this will lead to opportunities for entrepreneurs. Companies that manufacture reusable bags will continue to grow and expand their product lines, and will create environmentally friendly jobs. The sale of reusable bags will also generate sales tax income, unlike the disposable bags, which are given away. It is time New York City joins the banning of plastic bags, and uses its money on education, roads and firefighters and not cleaning up the plastic industry’s mess.
Many people who feel strong about the banning of plastic bags are able to influence others and show them the harm that the innocent looking plastic bag produces. Special interest groups such as Ban the Bag, established in Portland, Oregon has such a powerful message for getting rid of plastic bags that it was able to make huge strides in the cutting down of plastic usage. These types of organizations give a positive outlook for advancement in the reduction of using plastic products. Not only do these interest groups bring awareness to people, they help influence certain debates persuading why plastic bags should be banned. They also bring success stories. In the United States, attempts by legislators to ban or restrict the use of plastic bags have been derailed several times in recent years by the lobbying efforts of the plastic manufacturers. But recently, as of October 15, 2011, the City of Portland has banned single-use plastic bags at major grocery outlets. A similar ban has gone into effect in cities such as San Francisco and Washington, D.C. In Washington D.C., as of January of 2010 a five-cent fee went into effect, the result was seen in only five months with a 60 percent reduction in plastic bag litter in the Anacostia River. The more people know about the effects of plastic bags through interest groups the faster we can get New York City to ban them, and add New York City to the list of success stories for banning plastic bags.
Plastics are one of the world’s most commonly used materials. Everyone has seen, touched, smelled, and used plastics. It is so commonly used that many don’t think about what life would be like without plastics. Since plastic is so heavily produced it makes sense to reduce the production of it. New York has to take the first step for the benefit of people, animals, the environment and the future and ban plastic bags.