- An autopsy on a small Minke whale washed up on the Normandy coast revealed that its stomach contained an incredible 800g of plastic bags and packaging, including two British supermarket plastic bags.
- In the UK, each person throws away over 300 plastic bags yearly, with each bag being used only for 12 minutes. The overwhelming ubiquity of single use bags makes it a difficult issue to tackle. In the USA, over 100 billion are thrown away each year. To put that into perspective, if everyone in the United States tied their annual consumption of plastic bags together in a giant chain, the chain would reach around the Earth’s equator 776 times!
Whether they end up in the sea deliberately or accidently, the end result is the same, and all marine plastic waste poses a serious irreversible life threat to our wildlife from tiny filter feeders to whales and humans.
The truth is, all plastic made is still on the earth whether recycled or not. It is non biodegradable and breaks down over years into tiny eventually microscopic pieces. These tiny plastic pieces, often seen on beaches, become so small they latch onto surfaces of barnacles, shells and are passed into the food chain as toxins. Such toxins are proved to cause serious problems in health of marine species and humans, where they behave as carcinogens and endocrine disruptors when in the food chain.
Why stop the plastic bag?
Apart for the direct effects that we can see ie entanglement of species and as litter on our beaches. Plastic Bags are made from Crude Oil. 430,000 gallons of oil is used to produce 100 million bags, the USA throws away 380billion a year. Compounding the problem is the fact, not only do we make tonnes of plastic bags( using lots of crude oil), we only recycle 1 %. That is a very pitiful statistic. It takes thousands of years for a bag to biodegrade under perfect conditions, under landfill slower. The damage is worse when they reach the ocean, where thousands of turtles, fish and birds die each year by mistaking bags for food. The more bags we carelessly use, the more non renewable resources are used. So in the long-term, to Ban the Bag makes more ecological sense, and a healthier world for our marine species and your children. The same refers to plastic bottles.
What can be done
We can all make a big difference if we used a reusable shopping bag now. More and more countries and cities are banning the bag, for example, Italy, china, Buenos, Quebec, Paris. Within the UK, Modbury in Devon was the first town to ban the plastic bag, and many more are following in their footsteps.
It can be seen as a tiny effort, but it can make huge difference to consumer habits, awareness of over packaging and long-term effects of our wasteful lifestyles on out wildlife and habitats.
- Greenpeace. Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans. – View Full Report by Allsopp, Walters, Santillo, and Johnston
- Plastic Coalition