Plastic bags are indeed recognized as a significant environmental hazard due to their widespread use and detrimental effects on the environment. Here are some reasons why plastic bags are considered an environmental threat:
- Non-Biodegradability: Plastic bags are typically made from polyethylene, a synthetic polymer that does not naturally break down in the environment. This means that once plastic bags are discarded, they can persist in the environment for hundreds of years, contributing to litter and pollution.
- Wildlife Impact: Plastic bags pose a serious threat to wildlife. Animals such as sea turtles, birds, and marine mammals can mistake plastic bags for food and ingest them, leading to injury or death. Plastic bags can also entangle animals, causing suffocation or restricting their movements.
- Microplastic Pollution: Over time, plastic bags break down into smaller and smaller particles, eventually becoming microplastics. These tiny plastic particles can enter the food chain when ingested by aquatic organisms, potentially harming both marine life and human health.
- Litter: Plastic bags are often discarded improperly, littering streets, parks, rivers, and oceans. Not only does this detract from the beauty of natural environments, but it can also clog storm drains and exacerbate flooding issues in urban areas.
- Resource Intensive: The production of plastic bags consumes valuable natural resources, including petroleum and natural gas. Additionally, the manufacturing process generates greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.
- Energy and Water Use: Plastic bag production requires significant energy and water inputs, contributing to environmental degradation and climate change.
- Recycling Challenges: While plastic bags are technically recyclable, the recycling rate for plastic bags is relatively low compared to other materials. Many municipal recycling programs do not accept plastic bags due to the complications they introduce in recycling machinery.
To mitigate the environmental hazards associated with plastic bags, many regions have implemented measures such as plastic bag bans or fees, encouraging the use of reusable bags made from materials like cloth, paper, or sturdier plastics. These efforts aim to reduce plastic bag consumption and promote more sustainable alternatives. Additionally, recycling programs that specifically target plastic bags can help divert some of them from landfills and oceans. However, the most effective solution remains reducing overall plastic bag usage and adopting more eco-friendly alternatives to packaging and carrying goods.
The usage of plastic bags is adding environmental problems and also affecting the health of people. While for this we have asked our author and also student of environmental science point of views:
Further he added; “The trend of importing raw material to produce plastic bags has increased in Pakistan. The litter produce because of the plastic bags are severe, adding more toxicity to the milieu. The research has been made on the litter; it was found that, 46,000 plastic bags are floating in each square mile of the ocean, which is affecting the marine and polluting the water.According to the federal ministry survey 95% people use plastic bags,3 % use paper bags, 1 % use cloth bags and 1 % use baskets. It means 1000 of plastic bags are thrown in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Out of thousand only 10 % go to dustbins, 30 % are thrown away in the wide area and sometimes it is blocking the sewage system of the cities. And 60 % blocking the drains thus affecting the drinking water supply and causing the water borne diseases like hepatitis, cholera and urinary tract infections.As we all are familiar of the fact that burning plastic bags producing toxic gases and the people who are in the vicinity of that immensely inhale and suffer from the lung cancer, eyes irritation, skin irritation and can be the producer of acid rain. These chemically made bags carry carcinogenic agents which can cause cancer. But the consumers are unaware of the biodegradable bags and they are using plastic bags because of the unawareness within the people. Environmentalists are supporting the law to control the usage of plastic bags and replace them with a low density or high density Polyethylene (PE) biodegradable bags.
Despite of all the actions and protests at the international level, the ignorance was obvious during the earthquake in Pakistan. Up to 70% of the relief was packed in plastics instead of biodegradable bags and nobody raised that issue in the international market.
In the population of 180 million, an average person consumes more than 2 Kg plastic bags in a year. I come to know through my couple of friends that there are number of ministers doing the business of plastic bags and they are creating obstacles in the implementation of ban. According to the ministers banning the plastic industries would severely affect an already falling economy of the country.
According to the survey there are only two manufacturers of biodegradable bags in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. One is in Rawalpindi and another is in Islamabad running by an NGO.According to the newspaper the NGO personnel refused to give any sort of information about the production of the biodegradable bags.I come to know through newspaper that a regular 15 micron plastic bag costs Rs 250/Kg and 60 micron biodegradable bags does not cost more than 270/Kg.
In almost 50 countries, the biodegradable bags have already been replaced the plastic bags. But in Pakistan and India it seems rare, we need to campaign for the biodegradable bags so that it will reduce the
toxicity in the atmosphere.
The supporters of biodegradable technology added ‘’the test conducted by American’s Food and drug Association show that the additive is safe to use with edible products. Greener bags have short span of time and decompose easily. They affect neither the land’s fertility nor cause pollution, on land or sea, in the light or dark, in heat or cold, in whatever timescale is required, leaving no fragments, no methane and no harmful residues and help to preserve the environment.
I will conclude the article with the hope from the developing countries as well as developed countries that they will ban the use of carcinogenic products’’.