“You shall not pollute the land in which you live”
The major impact of plastic bags on the environment is that they can take up to 300 years to decompose. As they perish in sunlight, they release toxic chemicals into the soil, and if they are burned, these toxins are released into the air.
When they are dumped into landfills, plastic bags are often filled with decomposing organic food waste, which releases methane as well as leaching toxins into the soil. This soil is no longer able to be used for agricultural production.
They block stormwater drains, which impacts on the sewerage system, causing it to fail and leading to sewage overflows.
Animals often confuse the bags for food and consume them, therefore blocking their digestive processes. Cows can swallow them and then die of starvation as their stomachs are full. Marine animals and birds can die of choking.
What can we do?
The most important is to bring your own bag. Cloth bags are readily available – the challenge is only to remember them each time. Keep some bags in your car and in your handbag for those quick visits to the shop!
When you are buying your fruit and veg and taking them for weighing, avoid the thin plastic bags, for much fruit and veg the price sticker can go directly onto the fruit. Or else you can take a paper bag from the bakery department and put the veggies into that.
It is always better to bring your own bag – reusing paper bags each time obviously has an environmental impact as they are made from trees (they are also heavier than plastic bags so it takes more petrol to deliver them).
Some of the biodegradable/compostable plastic bags are also not the solution as they get mixed up with the recycled goods which then can mess up the system (a bit like chucking a hamburger into your recycling).
Apart from bringing your own bag, put pressure on your supermarket to do away with plastic bags totally – many are starting to do so. Ask them to make cardboard boxes available at the till for packing groceries.
What other suggestions do you have to deal with the challenge of plastic bags?
The negative environmental effects of plastic shopping bags