4 ways plastic bags harm the environment
Plastic bags are one of the most versatile carry bags. They are also feasible for businesses since they are cheaper than paper and cloth bags. Compared to paper bags, plastic bags are stronger and resistant to water. Hence, many customers prefer to use plastic bags. Apart from using to carry groceries, plastic bags are also re-used by many to line their trash cans. However, once they are disposed of, plastic bags are serious environmental hazards. They do not degrade and accumulate over time and fill up landfills and waterbodies and choke drainage systems. Here are 5 ways in which plastic bags have been found to be harmful to the environment.
- Issues with landfill
Plastic bags are difficult to recycle. Bags made from polyethylene can be recycled into new plastic bags, drainage pipes, composite lumber, or outside the fencing. However, the process of recycling requires that the plastic bag does not have any moisture; in order to be recycled, it is necessary that food or other water-based materials have not been stored in the plastic bags. This reduces the percentage of plastic bags that are recycled. The bags that do not undergo recycling accumulate on the landfills. This increases the volume of the landfill since the plastic bags take a very long time to decompose.
- Issues with waterways
Plastic bags take nearly 400 to 1000 years to decompose. When plastic bags enter the waterbodies, they do not break down completely. They are converted to plastic dust, which is made of compounds knowns as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are bio-toxins. These toxins enter the food chain as plants and animals are exposed to the water containing PCBs.
- Issue with wildlife
Plastic bags that are disposed into landfills or released in any way into the environment enter into the water bodies such as rivers, oceans, and tributaries. These floating plastic bags are mistaken for food by the aquatic animals. For instance, sea turtles that feed on jellyfish may mistake plastic bags for food since a floating plastic bag appears like a jellyfish. Once plastic bags enter their bodies, it affects their health since plastic cannot be digested. Small animals and birds get entangled in the floating plastic bags and often strangle to death.
- Issues with flooding
Since plastic bags do not decompose or dissolve in water, they clog drains and sewers. This causes flooding since the normal flow of sewage water is blocked. This issue has been observed in a lot of developing countries.