Whether it’s the most advanced of cities, or the most backward of settlements, we all use plastic shopping bags on a daily basis. They’re a very normal part of our lives, but when they do leave our lives in the form of various packages, waste containers, and etc, the impact they leave behind for the planet is far from normal or appreciable.
Some blow across roads like post-apocalyptic tumbleweed, while others become snagged in the branches of street trees. Still others end up floating through our creeks and rivers until they find their way to the sea.
The point is, plastic bags are almost impossible to be destroyed, and even when they do get decomposed it literally takes over hundreds of years, so in a nutshell: they’re bad and they don’t decompose.
But what exactly do they do if they’re left untouched on the planet?
Wildlife harm, clogged sewage systems, environment deterioration, and so much more, are only some of all the problems these small objects continue to cause around us.
It is difficult to grasp the scope of this problem, despite the commonness of plastic bags in the landscape. No one knows exactly how many bags are littering the planet right now, but researchers estimate that 500 billion are used around the globe each year.
A small percentage of these end up being recycled, and some people try to reuse old plastic bags for other purposes (which is amazing), but the vast majority of plastic bags are used a single time. Many are discarded into the trash, but a significant percentage end up polluting natural habitats.
Part of the reason that plastic bags are so problematic relates to their long lifespan, as I mentioned that they take (literally) forever to decompose.
Whereas a paper towel breaks down in a month, and a piece of plywood may take a year to degrade, plastic bags persist for much longer – typically decades, and in some cases centuries.
In fact, plastic bags that make their way into rivers, lakes or oceans never completely biodegrade. Instead, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually becoming “microplastics,” which are less than 5 millimeters long. And these tiny pieces of plastic although not so visible, are also killing marine life, and ruining the flow of the natural ecosystems.
So, that being said and the problem being discussed, not for the first or last time, we really need to try our best to recycle and use environment-friendly material, because at this point, we can only prevent and try to save what’s left of the planet for hopes of a reasonable future.