If Earth’s history is compared to a calendar year, modern humans have been around for 37 minutes and managed to use up one third of Earth’s natural resources in the last 0.2 seconds.
Never before has our planet, and we as a people, stood before the number and scale of man-made challenges than we do today. Real change is needed. Not just from politicians and businesses - but from all of us. Without understanding the situation, and without developing a deeper awareness about the lives we are living - and the consequences it has - such changes are unlikely to occur.
The climate is approaching critical tipping points that could set off a process of self-reinforcing, runaway global warming. At the same time global energy use will continue to grow - by about 27 percent between 2017 and 2040. If nothing changes, most of this increase will be covered by burning more coal
Problems caused by plastic bags
- 160,000 plastic bags are used globally every second!
- 5 trillion plastic bags are produced yearly. Side by side, they can encircle the world 7 times.
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a floating landfill of garbage in the Pacific twice the size of Texas, is mostly composed of plastic.
- In California 2008, a sperm whale was found beached due to 22 kilos of plastic found in its stomach.
- Plastic will only start degrading after 700 years and will only fully degrade in 1000 years.
- All the plastic that has ever been produced has not degraded yet.
- Plastic bags remain toxic even after it breaks down. It doesn’t biodegrade, it photo-degrades. After it degrades, it breaks down into smaller toxic bits of itself – and bleeds and contaminates the environment.
- An average family will use 60 plastic bags on four visits to the supermarket.
- Only 1 to 3% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide.
- Plastic bags were introduced to supermarkets in 1977.
- In the North Pacific Ocean, there is 6x more plastic debris than plankton.
- Plastic bags are produced using petroleum, natural gas & other chemicals. Its production is toxic to the environment.
How do they end up in the Ocean?
- Plastic bags are so lightweight and aerodynamic, that even if we dispose of them properly, they can escape with the wind. They escape from our trash cans, garbage trucks and landfills and they go where the wind takes them – polluting our environment until they finally find their way to the ocean and kill birds and animals.
- Just search for “animals eat plastic bags” in Google and you will find hundreds of stories of poor animals dying from suffocation and from eating the plastic bags, mistaking them for food! The problem is that when the animals die and decompose, the plastic bag in their stomachs will just be released into the environment again (it doesn’t degrade for 1,000 years, remember?) – and will probably kill another animal. It’s like a never ending killing cycle!
The Global Response
- In response to the problem of plastic bag usage and to acknowledge its negative effects to our environment, more and more countries are banning or regulating the use of plastic bags in supermarkets and retail stores.
- Retailers are no longer automatically dispensing plastic bags. Some have started charging for them in the hopes that customers will be discouraged and bring their own reusable bags… and it works! More and more users are now bringing their own bags when they go shopping and this has drastically reduced our usage worldwide.
What can you do to help?
- The efforts of governments and retailers will go to waste if we, the consumers, don’t contribute to the effort of reducing plastic bag usage. Yes, you’ve been so used to it. It’s a cheap and convenient way to carry things around. But there are other, better, alternatives. We just need to recondition our minds and make it a habit. Here are some suggestions:
- Start by bringing your own Eco-Friendly bags.
- Reuse and Recycle your plastic bags at home. You can take them to a nearby recycling centre.
- Patronize businesses that support the effort to reduce plastic bag usage. Don’t get mad at them for inconveniencing you if they don’t give you a plastic bag.
- Spread awareness by not accepting plastic bags from retailers and reminding them that it’s toxic to our environment.
- Let’s start educating our children about the plastic bag problem so they will continue the efforts and go green themselves.
- Stop using plastic altogether.