Plastic bags have been used in grocery stores since the 1950s, and since then they have become a staple in American homes. They have been around for under 100 years yet have still become one of the biggest problems for our environment and the environment for other animals. There has recently been an attempt to stop the use of plastic bags in the grocery stores of certain states, but it has not completely stopped the use of them. As long as there is still an option for someone to get a plastic bag, they will be using them, no matter how much harm it does to the planet. Plastic bags are one of the worst environmental hazards because they don’t decompose, they will float around until they end up getting stuck somewhere, including the ocean. Since the beginning of plastic bags they have been a harm to the environment, becoming huge hazards, and has a problem in environmental ethics because we view it as socially acceptable to use plastic bags.
Plastic bags originated from a Swedish engineer named Sten Gustaf Thulin, and his goal was to create a bag that was simple, strong, and had a high carrying capacity. By 1962 his idea for the bag had exploded into the American market, where articles in newspapers were written about the bag and what uses it could provide. Thulin’s goal was definitely to just make the everyday person’s life easier and he didn’t mean any harm in the creation of the plastic bag. He viewed it as something that would help people carry things more efficiently and provide something simple that would improve people’s quality and ease of life. In the process, his creation also filled the ocean with tons of plastic debris that will never dissolve. Scientists have actually discovered that it is most likely tens of thousands of tons of plastic debris on the surface of the ocean; while only small pieces of plastic is pulled beneath the ocean by sinkholes. Plastic bags have obviously caused many problems since their creation. They have taken up large spots in the political economy, from factories making them, to landfills where plastic bags will last forever, and the ocean where these plastic bags will stay covering the ocean's surface.
Author Kathryn Senior recorded that there are over one trillion plastic bags used per year, and this amount has only been increasing as years go by. In our political economy, making and storing one trillion of something takes up quite a bit of space. Plastic bags have to be produced, shipped to stores, and then placed in landfills. Since a plastic bag will never dissolve it must sit in a landfill taking up space that could be used on something else. Essentially, every year there will be one trillion plastic bags either entering landfills or floating off into the ocean. This is not a very good use of space considering we should not even be making these plastic bags. Charging money for the bags is still allowing them to be produced. As long as our economy allows for a plastic bag to be produced it will be taking up needed space in our environment that could be used for something more beneficial. In Hong Kong a teacher named Mary tried to slow the waste of plastic bags by teaching her students how to create art out of the bags, and stop the bags from just being thrown out when people were done with them. This may teach us to not waste plastic bags, but these plastic bags are still taking up our valuable space and eventually their art will be thrown away by someone, and this art will never dissipate because it is made of plastic bags. Teaching multiple uses for a plastic bags is essentially useless the only way to end their hazardous production is to stop using them completely or to create a more sustainable, recyclable bag.
You should know that plastic bags have many hazards and risks associated with them because of their lack of an appropriate way to recycle them. In this way they are very similar to E-Waste, because the products both have hazardous materials within them that cannot be properly disposed of within our environment. We already have these massive amounts of E-Waste going into our environment and the last thing we need is more coming from something as simple as a plastic bag. Plastic bags are a major hazard to the marine wildlife in our environment because bags will just sit on the surface of the ocean. When marine animals such as breaching whales or dolphins which will get stuck in this plastic or even accidentally eat it. There has also been cases of whales getting plastic stuck within their blowholes which is toxic to them and will eventually kill them once they can no longer use their blowhole. This causes a major hazard to us humans also. We will eventually lose the use of the ocean because we’ll be constantly getting stuck in plastic when swimming, or our boats will ruin their motors when plastic bags get caught on their propellers. This will both ruin the beauty of our oceans, and slow down certain ways that we travel or ship things. Having plastic toxins constantly sitting within the water will also make the water toxic which will kill fish and smaller animals. These smaller animals are staple pieces in many people’s diets; and this will make it so we can no longer eat animals from the ocean. I’m sure there are also many unforeseen effects plastic bags will have on us and our oceans. We must stop the use of plastic bags to save us, our environment, and the many other animals we are sharing this planet with.
We must stop the production of plastic bags, or make a more sustainable/recyclable bag, so we can prevent our environment from being further hurt by them. Plastic bags are something that is not essential to our lives, can be replaced, but is also extremely harmful to our lives. There is no reason for us to still be using these bags when we know the effects they have on us, animals, and our environment. It is not good enough to simply put them into landfills, because these landfills will not get rid of plastic bags, they will still be here just under the Earth's surface. Plastic bags are taking up space in forms of their factories and where the bags go when they are done being used. Getting rid of plastic bags will remove the use of tons of plastic that will eventually end up in our environment. The removal of these bags will take small changes but have great effects on our environment. Helping to remove plastic bags will help us all and it is such a small change to make. Produce reusable and recyclable bags instead of plastic ones and our environment will see many positive impacts.
Cózar, Andrés, Fidel Echevarría, J. Ignacio González-Gordillo, Xabier Irigoien, Bárbara Úbeda, Santiago Hernández-León, Álvaro T. Palma, Sandra Navarro, Juan García-de-Lomas, Andrea Ruiz, María L. Fernández-de-Puelles, and Carlos M. Duarte. "Plastic Debris in the Open Ocean." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Vol. 111, no. 28 (2014): 10239-0244. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23805735.
Disposable America. “Inventor: Sten Gustaf Thulin.” https://disposableamerica.org/the-plastic-bag/inventor-sten-gustaf-thulin/.
Oxford College, “Environmental Studies: The Common Plastic Bag,” January 24, 2014. https://www.oxfordcollege.ac/news/environmental-studies-the-common-plastic-bag/.
Robbins, Paul, John Hintz, and Sarah A. Moore. “E-Waste.” Environment and Society A Critical Introduction. 2nd Edition (2014), 299-313.
Sang, Anita NG Heung. "Plastic Bags and Environmental Pollution." Art Education. Vol. 63, no. 6 (2010): 39-43. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20799853.
Senior, Kathryn. "End in Sight for Plastic Bags?" Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Vol. 6, no. 3 (2008): 119. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20440831.