If you put a plastic bag over your head and tight it around your neck, you’ll soon be unable to breathe. Now imagine that there is a huge plastic bag around the earth. With every time your shop for groceries, clothes, etc. the opening of that bag gets smaller, smaller and smaller – until we suffocate in our trash.
We’ll think: why the hell did I take that plastic bag the sales assistant offered? Why didn’t I just carry these light cloth bags? Or any other reusable bag? It would have been so easy! Nevertheless, most people refuse to take this kind of small sustainable choices. And that’s our mistake.
To give you some numbers…
The reason why plastic bags are so bad for the environment are the same as with bottles, straws and every other kind of plastic. I’ve talked about this in some other post, but let’s just review the facts:
Plastic, no matter which kind, starts degrading after hundreds of years. Until it fully degrades, it can sometimes take 1000 of years. 1000 years ago, humans lived in the Middle Age. Kings and the church ruled the world. It was a dark time full of wars and crusades. That was 1000 years ago. What will happen in 3019? What will our plastic bags see, what maybe no human will ever see?
Since their introduction on the world market 1977, plastic bags rule the trend boards. About 5 trillion of the are produced annually, or 160,000 per second – that’s enough for them to encircle the world 7 times! You see, we’re on our best way to actually suffocate the whole earth.
And although I can’t repeat often enough that recycling isn’t the solution for all our problems, it’s still better than nothing. Unfortunately, even that task seems to hard for people to accomplish. Only 1-3% of plastic bags are actually recycled.
What actions were already taken?
After all that negative information and dark future predictions, it’s time for some positive stuff: we’re not completely doomed. Many states took already some actions – others plan to do that in the next few years. In many countries, single-use bags started to cost. Although their actually pretty cheap, it helped. Less people started buying plastic bags.
Another action taken is even more effective: Countries such as Germany, Italy, England and even some African countries and states in Australia and the US banned single-use plastic bags.
The number of countries banning plastic bags or putting a tax on them increases each year – there’s a lot we still have to do but, in some areas, we’re about to get better.
And now it’s YOUR turn
Even if your country hasn’t banned plastic bags yet: it’s no excuse to take them. The opposite is the case: if plastic bags are offered to you at every single store, you should be even more aware of them and refuse them at all cost. Reusable bags don’t cost a lot and they’re light weighted. Putting them in your purse should therefore not be a problem. If you’re very motivated to refuse plastic bags at all cost (which is the best thing you can do) and you forget your reusable bag, don’t take it as an excuse to accept the plastic bag. Carry your stuff with your hands – even if you have to run to the car or home more often. I promise you: after such an experience you’ll never forget your reusable bag again! (I speak from experience – it takes so much time and strength to carry all your groceries without a bag, but at least you get a workout)
The thing with paper bags
Sometimes it seems to me, like paper bags are even more trendy than plastic bags. Although paper does break down a lot faster than plastic under ideal conditions (landfills don’t have ideal conditions, which means that there, paper bags do need a long time to degrade), paper bags in general aren’t a much better solutions to plastic bags.
The biggest problem is the production. To manufacture a paper bag, you need 4 times more energy. Recycling paper bags uses more energy as well. Also, paper is made out of trees. So, to produce paper bags, we need to cut down forests, which by the way are natural carbon dioxide fighters and home of a variety of species.
So, forget about plastic AND paper bags! Forget about that single-use stuff in general! Take small sustainable choices, go to the next store and buy yourself a reusable bag!