It's everywhere. A trip to the grocery
store reveals items packaged in plastic, which are put in a plastic
shopping cart, possibly paid for with a plastic card and carried out in plastic
bags. The conveniences of plastic have made a positive impact on
virtually every facet of our life. Although plastics have had a
remarkable impact it is increasingly obvious there is a price to be paid
for their use.
Before you toss that plastic bag, the plastic
ring from a 6-pack or the empty beverage bottle, stop and think.
You play an important role as a consumer and can make a big difference
in whether or not you create a problem for the environment.
The Impact of Plastic
Many plastics remain floating on the surface of
our waterways, the place where many food sources lie making them
attractive to species of marine life.
debris is plastic
|Photo is from an American in the
US Consulate in Lagos, Nigeria. He said there are no public
landfills and no sewage treatment plants. All trash goes into the
Plastic degrades due to solar radiation and
oxidation into smaller and smaller pieces, all of which are still
plastic polymers, eventually becoming individual molecules of plastic
|Photo courtesy http://www.bhopal.net
In 2004 English scientists reported on tiny,
even microscopic plastic fragments that have worked their way down and
are polluting deep ocean sediments and are now in the plankton, the very
bottom of the food chain. (Richard Thompson, Science
Photos: Algalita Marine Research
Algalita Marine Research Foundation found some
areas of the Pacific Ocean to have 6 times as much plastic debris as
Over 1,000,000 seabirds and marine mammals die each year from plastic
ingestion of entanglement.
Dolphins will eat pieces of plastic
sheeting they mistake for jellyfish and other prey. Young ones can
strangle on ingested plastic. Dolphins may also become entangled in
recreational fishing line or plastic strapping, which can drown them, or
wrap around and amputate their appendages.
Bottle caps and other
plastic objects are visible inside the decomposed carcass of this Laysan
albatross on Kure Atoll, which lies in a remote and virtually
uninhabited region of the North Pacific. The bird probably mistook the
plastics for food and ingested them while foraging for prey.
The pictures say it all:
with cut around neck from plastic bag
Life of a Plastic Shopping Bag:
- Made of virgin resins (#2 or #4)
- Does not biodegrade!
- Health laws and business economics limit
- Less than 1% are recycled
The number of
disposable bags used in Calif. exceeds 14 billion annually. A study (1997) showed 58% of Americans prefer paper to
plastic, yet a report from Film and Bag Federation found that 4 out
of 5 grocery bags used are plastic. Almost no plastic grocery bags have any recycled content. In contrast, paper bags typically have 25-40% or even 60%
recovered paper fiber.
over 19 billion plastic grocery bags and merchandise bags
each year, roughly 552 bags per person, generating 147,038 tons of
to stretch around the globe over 250 times.
plastic bags – because they cost them a about half of what a paper
bag costs (4 cents vs. 8 cents), and because they are so light they
are cheaper to transport. Grocery bags are at the top of their operating expenses so they have
jumped at the chance to cut costs there and push use of plastic over
Even bags recycled
at the markets are often land-filled, and super-market collection
represents the only real cycling of bags that is taking place.
manufacturers like to argue it takes less energy to make a plastic
bag than a paper one. The
stats on this are confusing, as the anti-plastics camp says it depends on how you calculate it. Either way, the fact remains there is no closed loop on
plastic bags, and whatever it is recycled into is an end product
here for centuries.
According to Worldwatch institute's 2004 study, .6 percent of
plastic bags in U.S. get recycled.
bags/family - we reached the 900 bags per household figure by
dividing the total number of bags used in the US each year - 100
billion (EPA figure) by the number of US households, 111 million,
according to the 2003 census. Note he quotes the EPA for the 100
billion bags/year figure.
[i] Cascadia Consulting, December 2004.
“California Statewide Waste Characterization Study.” No closed loop
means that any recycled bags go into end-use products like lumber
that are essentially here for eternity.
Do something fantastic. Cut out the plastic.