It is common knowledge that more and more cities and towns are choosing to ban plastic bags. Many of them are passing stringent policies that will discourage the use of plastic bags. Most recently, the New York City Council slapped a 5-cent fee per single-use plastic bag. Also, the Massachusetts senate has proposed a total ban of plastic bags that are dispensed by most retailers. In Massachusetts alone, over 30 towns have chosen to ban the bags or regulate them with punitive fees. In California, at-least 80 towns and localities have banned plastic bag use. Globally, more and more countries are choosing to ban plastic bags. All these are signs that the world is now in agreement that phasing out plastics could be the way forward to a better world.
The effects of plastic bags are evident in society today.
- They litter landfills and drainage systems.
- They also choke oceans and become a hazard to marine life.
- Also, they cause much havoc in towns; and cities have to spend a fortune to clean them up. For example, the Sanitation Department in New York City collects over 1,700 tons of single-carry bags every week. Annually, they have to spend $12.5 million to dispose the bags and keep the city clean.
Banning of the bags has led to significant reduction in the plastic menace in cities such as San Jose and Washington DC. The plastic bag fees have also played a small role to discourage the ill effects of the bags.
With all the above in mind, what then is the best replacement for plastic bags? This has been a highly debated question in various circles. Many assume that paper bags are the best option because they are biodegradable. However, a study by an Australian government agency was done in 2007 on this topic. The conclusion was that paper bags have a higher carbon footprint than plastic bags. This may be shocking but here is the logic. Paper bags are thicker and require more energy in production compared to plastic bags. In addition, the paper bags are heavier and transporting them is more costly than plastic bags. Of course, reusable bags are excellent and you can check out these reusable bags.
Many environmental experts will certainly prefer paper over plastic any day. However, when considering the environment, you have to go beyond concerns of climate change. There are many other forms of climate degradation like the need for very high energy in production. In all this, most people acknowledge that plastics are toxic in nature. They literally choke marine life and the consequences are suffered by humans. Cotton used to make paper bags takes up more than 5,000 gallons of water per pound to produce. In addition, cotton cannot be recycled. The Australian study concluded that the best bags to use are reusable ones made from plastic and not cotton.
The whole point here is that no matter which option is chosen for any locality, there are both merits and demerits. However, all people can learn how to recycle and reuse which will go a long way in reducing the environmental impact. The societal problem as a whole could be over-consumption. In this case, a change in attitude could be the game-changer.
Do you recycle and do your part to help the environment?
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