Ban plastic bags

Have you ever thought about the life cycle of a plastic bag? We are in contact with plastic bags on a daily basis however not much thought goes into what happens to the bag after we have used it.

Plastic bags start their life as crude oil, after several processes it becomes string. The string is then cut and dyed and made into plastic bags. The bag is then imprinted with a company logo and off to a store.

While it’s a noble thought to place the plastic bags in the recycling bin every week, studies have proven that there are very few plants that actually recycle them. Most municipalities either burn them or send them off to the landfill after sorting because it is expensive to recycle this type of plastic. It doesn’t melt down easily and is often not realistically able to be reused without considerable overhaul to the facility, as it takes 85% more energy to recycle a single plastic bag.

The plastic bags that aren’t recycled either land up in landfills or in the oceans. Scientists have estimated that it can take up 1000 years for the bag to disintegrate completely releasing hazardous toxins and damaging the environment as they decay.  To add to the shocking statistics more than a million seabirds and thousands of animals including whales, dolphins and seals are killed because of plastic bags. 

South Africa is a water scarce country with very little rainfall annually. Using litres of fresh water every year to make plastic bags seems to have a double negative affect on the environment. Not only are we polluting our rivers and oceans, but we are using the very resource that keeps us alive to produce them. Does that not make you think twice about using them?!

Plastic bag litter is often also the result of human laziness and the effects of plastic bags on the environment are grossly misunderstood.

If every South African had to know the detrimental effects of plastic bags on the environment do you think we, as a society, would change? What we need to start doing is removing plastic bags completely in grocery stores to force people to bring their own textile. This will encourage citizens to be more conscious and also assist with the mass littering problem we have in this country.

Schools play a vital role in educating our population on how our environment is affected by human actions. Children spend a lot of time at school and teachers should encourage children to opt for other options and not rely on flimsy non-recyclable plastic bags when shopping. Children also need to be taught that they are a consumer, and consumers drive what is made available in our shops. So, simply, if consumers no longer want plastic bags available and stop buying them, the companies will stop manufacturing them.

Teaching our kids about plastic bags and their effects may seem insignificant to many … but if you read between the lines you will see that kids are being taught many different lessons, from understanding that we have an impact in every action that we make and taking responsibility for those actions to understanding that they have the power to change how society is shaped.

It is crucial that societies properly understand the effects of plastic bags on the environment and learn to create sustainable ways to deal with them. Individuals have a duty to be conscious of their impact on the environment. If each of us do our bit, collectively we will make a huge positive impact on the environment.