Can we talk about plastic?
Updated: Jun 8, 2018
An estimated one trillion bags are used each year globally, but they are so seamlessly ingrained into our daily routines that we hardly notice. It is difficult to imagine life without them. Walk out of a supermarket with a container of milk or a box of cookies. Walk out of a drugstore with a box of bandaids. Walk out of a hardware store with a box of nails. Chances are that the helpful clerk will have placed your item in at least one if not two plastic bags. If you are average (I know you are awesome, but you know what I mean), you will use the plastic bag for probably no longer than 12 minutes and then discard it. (12 minutes!) Stores offer the bags free to customers and most of us don’t think twice, but let’s consider the actual cost. #reuse #recycle #plastics #BreakFreeFromPlastic
The average American throws away about 10 single-use plastic bags per week, but New Yorkers use twice the national average. Some 23 billion are used across the state each year. A recent report by a New York State Task Force on the impact of single-use plastic bags explains why this is a problem. #recycling #SingleUsePlastic
Plastic bags are:
Derived from fossil fuels
A source of litter on land and in waterways
A source of avoidable excess packaging waste used for mere minutes
Harmful to marine habitats and wildlife
Problematic, creating tangles and jams in recycling and waste water processing equipment
Costly for municipalities and recycling centers in terms of time and money to manage
Instead of a smoothly running system to take used plastic and recycle it, contaminated plastic bags and plastic film wrap gum up the recycling machines causing costly delays while mechanics clean out the mess. #plasticpollution
Millions of whales, birds, seals and turtles die because they mistake plastic bags for food or because they become ensnared in nets, packing bands and other items. Trillions of microplastics end up in the ocean, with seafood eaters ingesting an estimated 11,000 tiny pieces annually. Plastic fibers have also been found in tap water around the world; in one study, researchers found that 94 percent of water samples in the United States were affected. The impact on human health from direct exposure to microplastics is unknown. #MarineLife #microplastics #saveourseas
So we see the environmental cost of plastic bags, but what of the actual hit-you-in-the-pocket cost? Across the globe towns, cities and countries are experimenting with ways to discourage the use of plastic bags. One very successul method has been to charge customers for a bag. Fees charged to consumers for each plastic bag drive home the actual financial cost. They have a long track record of success, and not just across American cities. They have been effective in Denmark, Hong Kong, South Africa, Britain and Botswana. The average Dane, for example, now uses just four single-use plastic bags a year, after the introduction of a fee in 1994. #saveourearth #planetorplastic #banplasticbags #NationalGeographic
The only time a problem is hopeless is if we pretend it’s not there. We can’t pretend plastic away.