OPINION: Reusable Bags Are A Better Choice For Earth

Juliette Uncovsky, Associate Editor

When you are at the checkout in the grocery store, do you use plastic, paper or your own reusable bags? Whatever bag you use, impacts yourself, your community and the planet we call our home. Plastic bags should be eliminated from all stores to ensure less pollution and to promote a more sustainable and a clean-living environment for all the planets inhabitants.

Every day people use more plastic bags than they really need. People tell themselves that the bags will come in handy one day to use for other purposes. Yes, that is true, but most of these bags end up laying around becoming useless, in the trash, or rarely in the recycling bin, so why use them in the first place? According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the average American family brings home 1,500 plastic bags from stores each year, totaling to 100 billion plastic bags used in one year by Americans. If these plastic bags were recycled, the problems of plastic waste would be greatly eliminated. However, people only recycle one percent or 15 bags of the plastic bags they bring home. What happens after that? The bags enter landfills and oceans and proceed to pollute our earth and our innocent wildlife.

Plastic accounts for much of the total pollution in the world. We see it everywhere, from our food wrappers to our cars to the bins that are made to recycle our plastic. According to The World Counts, plastic bags have become so common in our daily lives that 160,000 plastic bags are created every second. Starting in 1977, plastic bags were introduced in supermarkets in America. They are made using petroleum, natural gas and other chemicals therefore, polluting our atmosphere with even more toxins. Plastic accounts for most of marine life death, and this includes plastic bags from our everyday grocery store.

There are two ways plastic bags get disposed. They are either recycled properly to where they are conjoined with other plastics to create new plastic. This new plastic material is then used in everyday items such as shoes and cell phones. The other method, is not a method, but merely a tactic of destruction. This is the method of leaving plastic bags floating about or disposing of them improperly in the trash can rather than recycling them. These end up piling up in landfills or other habitats and hurting our wildlife. In the ocean, plastic gets broken down due to constant contact with water and sunlight. It never breaks down completely however. Instead it goes through a process called photo-degradation which means it becomes smaller and smaller into toxic pieces, contaminating the environment and its residents. According to the Ocean Cleanup Organization, these small bits of plastic are six times more common than plankton in the Pacific Ocean. Animals in the environment do not know any better whether plastic is food or just trash, therefore they constantly mistaken the trash we produce for their needs of survival. Why should the animals who inhabit our earth peacefully pay for our careless mistakes?

These careless mistakes however are easily avoidable. Big changes start with small steps from every person. Next time you go to the store, say no to plastic bags.. Countries that have very low pollution rates, such as Finland and Australia, completely disregard the use of plastic bags. Instead, everyone brings their own bags for each shopping trip, or the stores provide plastic bags for a small charge, prompting consumers to use less of them. According to Bloomberg News, these countries only have concentrations of less than nine for the total pollution in their country, which is very low compared to China which has 115.7. This is a result from strict policies and open minds that lead to alternative and more efficient easy to carry groceries.

Instead people can use paper bags which are much more biodegradable or bring their own reusable bags each time. These bags might cost you a burden of $5 but will save the planet you live on and the animals they share it with. The 15 plastic bags a person will bring home from a trip to the store will last 12 minutes, then proceed to make their way to a landfill where they will harm and kill innocent wildlife and then finally only take 1,000 years to fully degrade. Those 15 plastic bags will not be the only ones. There will be trillions of plastics in landfills, stuck in tree branches and forming islands in the ocean. It is not hard to say no to plastic. Take the initiative to play your part in protecting your home and neighbors so everyone can all live on the vast green and blue planet, enjoying all its wonders in a clean and sustainable environment.