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The Danger of Plastic Bags

Essay by   •  January 5, 2013  •  Research Paper  •  1,469 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,306 Views

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Abstract

In this paper, I will explore the use of using plastic bags. Since their introduction, in the late 1950s, their use has continued to grow. Today, billions of plastic bags are used, on an annual basis, around the world. They are used by consumers to carry groceries and other goods. They are also used to store food items, as well as, other products.

This paper will explore some of the growing concerns of the use of plastic bags. In recent years, they have become a huge environmental concern. Plastic bags can be found everywhere, along our nation's roads, waterways and beaches. Additionally, plastic bags are responsible for the death of thousands of animals each year.

This paper will explore some of the long term affects of plastic bags. Plastic bags are produced from petroleum products, which contain many harmful chemicals. As plastic bags break down these chemicals contaminate our soil and water sources. This could have a long term negative effect on our planet.

This paper will also provide several recommendations on how to reduce our need for plastic bags, thus helping preserve and protect our planet.

The Danger of Plastic Bags

Today, plastic bags are popular with both consumers and retailers mainly due to their beneficial properties. Compared with other types of packaging material, plastic is light weight, inexpensive, durable and extremely convenient to carry, which makes it a perfect material for packaging. Plastic bags have become so common place that many people barely notice their presence. "According to EPA, the U.S. consumes about 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps a year" (Gunther, M., April 2007).

In reviewing the slide presentation, "The Danger of Plastic Bags" there is a number of harmful effects plastic bags are having on our planet. Current plastic bag use and disposal, both by consumers and through waste management activities, are creating a number of environmental problems. Today, plastic bags are not just in our local grocery and retail stores; they are everywhere, along our highways, in trees and in our streams, lakes and oceans.

The first thing I learned was that an enormous amount of plastic is being dumped into our oceans. "A study in 1975, showed oceangoing vessels together dumped 8 million pounds of plastic annually. The real reason that the world's landfills weren't overflowing with plastic was because most of it ended up in an ocean-fill" (U.S. National Academy of Sciences). If you have been to the beach lately you will see some of the effects of this plastic, as well as, other trash washing up along our shorelines. Since plastic is lightweight it can be carried for thousands of miles by ocean currents. This visual pollution is only a small part of the damage. Plastic bags are responsible for killing many aquatic mammals and birds. According to "Californians Against Waste estimates that plastic marine debris kills over 100,000 marine turtles and mammals every year" (Plastic Bag Pollution Facts, March 2011).

The second thing I learned is that "plastic bags photodegrade: Over time they break down into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers which eventually contaminate soils and waterways. As a consequence microscopic particles can enter the food chain" (CNN.com/technology November 16, 2007). Plastic bags are made from polymers or polymer resin, which means they are non-biodegradable. It will require hundreds of years for a plastic bag to decompose. During this time, the chemicals from them do not change; they just break down into many tiny bits. Many of these chemicals are toxic and contaminate our soil and water sources. Once again, this can have long term effects on world food sources.

The third thing I learned is how much petroleum is required to produce plastic bags. "China will save 37 million barrels of oil each year due to their ban of free plastic bags" (CNN.com/asia January 9, 2008). As the world population has increased, drastically, over the past few decades so has the demand for oil. Oil is a non-renewable resource that must be conserved. Currently, oil powers most modes of modern transportation. In recent years the price of oil has continued to rise. When we use plastic bags we are increasing the demand for oil, which contributes to the rising cost.

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