Plastic Bags and the Environment
1. Life / The Natural World / Ecology the EnvironmentPlastic Bags and the Environment
The average plastic carrier bag is used for five minutes, but takes 500 years to decompose1. In a survey2 in March 2005, 36% of those asked admitted to throwing away ‘vest’ style plastic bags after one use. On average, people surveyed admitted to using roughly eight bags per week.
Plastic bags take up huge amounts of space in our country’s landfill sites, space that could be used much more effectively. Many carrier bags end up as unsightly litter in fake rolex trees, streets, parks and gardens which, besides being ugly, can kill birds, small mammals and other creatures. Bags that make it to the ocean may be eaten by sea turtles and marine mammals, who mistake them for jellyfish, with disastrous consequences, or may end up drifting into the ‘Doldrums’, an area of the world’s oceans that have become the final resting place of much of the world’s floating junk.
The production, decomposition and disposal by burning of plastic bags also releases greenhouse gases3 that contribute to global warming. Although the burning of fossil fuels has a much greater impact, the production and disposal of carrier bags plays a part in this terrible global phenomenon.
Overseas Bag Policy
In many countries within the EU, supermarkets (and even governments) charge for carrier bags, which serves as a deterrent to overuse and wastage. For example, in Ireland a normal plastic bag bears a government tax of 15 euro cents4. Irish people would happily pay for a bag, but begrudge the government any form of tax. Even non EU countries, such as Croatia, levy a charge for carrier bags of 1 Kuna per bag5. In some countries, such as France, supermarkets do not provide any kind of disposable bag, instead offering reasonably priced, good quality, re usable bags.
These methods give people more of an incentive to re use plastic bags than just feeling good about saving the planet. Many British thinkers believe that if a system like this was introduced by an individual major supermarket chain, it would spread to all the others.
Bags in Britain
Some shops in Britain are starting to do something about the problem. For example, IKEA are charging five pence for carrier bags, following the success of the bag tax in Ireland. Tesco and the Co op now use biodegradable bags. The bags at the Co op are printed with the message ‘Britain’s first 100% degradable plastic carrier bag?This bag is 100% degradable but it can still be re used.’ Bio degradable carrier bags are a step in the right direction; however, they still take a lot of energy to produce and don’t d fake rolex ecompose safely or instantly. Tesco have also had another idea: they give ‘Green’ Club Card Points to customers who re use carrier bags in store or that give bags back to delivery drivers.
All this shows that supermarkets are prepared to make some changes to adopt ‘greener’ values by offering people something for re using bags, giving every customer an incentive.
Although something is being done, there is still a long way to go before the shops in Britain are environmentally friendly, in terms of plastic bags. Not one major supermarket (such as Tesco, Morrisons or Asda) charges for carrier bags, and many chains are doing nothing at all.
Expressing A Preference
In non supermarket shops such as Marks and Spencer or even the express checkouts of supermarkets, it is quite difficult to re use your plastic bags, as before you can say ‘No thank, you I’ve brought my own bag’, they will have put your shopping into a plastic bag and given it back to you. This is a problem of some concern, as people may be driven away from re using plastic bags since they would have to be quick and assertive with the shopkeepers, something they might be afraid of doing. If, for example, shopkeepers were to put the carrier bags on the client side of the desk and let them choose whether or not to take them, then it would be easier for the nation to re use plastic bags. Another idea for small local shops is to collect carrier bags which people don’t want and were going to throw away, and to re use them in the shop, rather than buying new ones.
Who Cares About The Environment?
However, if the re use and recycling of plastic carrier bags is to be a success in Britain, the people and the government must believe in the cause. The government could pass laws to tax plastic bags or have special carrier bag recycling bins set up around the country. But if the British people started re using carrier bags as normal practice, then there would be no need for the bags to be taxed or charged for. This again would come down to the government as they could run a campaign to make people re use carrier bags or pass laws making it difficult not to for example by not allowing supermarkets to provide them.
A small survey shows that many British people f fake rolex eel slightly inclined to re use their old carrier bags, but not enough to be bothered to actually do it, as there is no real incentive or benefit for them. If carrier bags were charged for, the incentive would be there they would save money by not buying new carrier bags. Most people don’t like re using bags, as it requires a little bit of effort which they can’t be bothered to put in.
In a small survey of British people, the IKEA and Tesco policies came up again, as well as the fact that many supermarkets used to charge for plastic bags about 25 years ago but don’t any more. Some people seem to believe that only heavy duty bags can be recycled and throw away all their other bags. This would be well addressed by a government campaign, as a charge on plastic bags wouldn’t stop them throwing away what they see to be ‘unusable’ plastic bags. However, there are many more people who believe that if plastic bags were charged for, then they would be encouraged to re use them.
The most enlightening result of the survey came when the question was asked about the biggest problem with the plastic bags in the world today and the most significant proportion, far outstripping any environmental concerns, complained that supermarket plastic bags were flimsy and prone to tear, and that the handle dug into your hands if you put a lot in them. A desire for short term comfort and convenience scores over long term waste management and environmental impact.
Given the current trend in many countries to continue providing carrier fake rolex bags free of charge, you can do your bit for the environment by finding ways to use the ones you have and politely refusing the ones you’re offered:When out shopping you can take bags with you, rather than using the ones provided by the shops. As well as re using the standard light weight ‘vest’ bags, you can also use:
Heavy duty bags whether heavy plastic or made from more natural materials, many supermarkets stock them right at the checkoutCanvas or fabric bagsRucksacksPaper bagsWheelie bagsWicker basketsIn an ideal world you would always refuse plastic bags, but sometimes you may need to accept one or two, either because you don’t have enough bags with you or because yours are worn out. To solve this problem, you could keep a re used bag on you most of the time if going into a commercial area, to anticipate those spontaneous purchases. In imaginative hands, you can turn the traditional free vest bag to a multitude of new uses. Some of these will get a second use out of the bag; others will use the bag over and over again, for which you deserve to give yourself a hefty pat on the back:
Storage Use a bag to collect and keep things tidy and all in one place. Use shopping bags to sort and store recyclables, like card, plastic, newpaper and so forth. Or, hang bags off hooks as extended storage for lightweight goods like crisps, snacks and biscuits.
In the Garden Plastic bags can be used in many ways in the garden. They make reasonable grow bags and can be used for insulation. You can use them as improvised buckets to move stuff from A to B things such as leaves or freshly extracted garden veg or to collect slugs and snails for humane disposal. You can use them for collecting trimmings while pruning to simplify the clean up process, or use them for.
Water proofing You can use impermeable bags to improvise waterproof clothing. This type of bag can also be used to keep things dry, if sealed properly, and can be used as a rucksack liner. You could put plastic bags inside your shoes to keep socks and feet dry.