Disposable plastic shopping bags are certainly useful and convenient; however, they have also greatly contributed to the massive decline in the health of our planet in recent times. It is important for people to know that plastic bags do not biodegrade, but rather photograde, breaking down into smaller (yet just as toxic) parts. Plastic bags can also take up to 1,000 years to break down! It is no wonder why plastic bags are among the 12 most common items found during coastal cleanups.
In addition to the environment, plastic bags also contaminate the food web when consumed by animals in the wild. Most of life on Earth lives in the water, so it is quite alarming to discover that in some parts of the ocean there is 46 times more plastic than food available for marine life. Many marine animals, such as sea turtles, feed on jellyfish; sadly, jellyfish are often indistinguishable from plastic bags in the water. The autopsies of many animals, especially marine animals, in recent years have resulted in some horrific findings. One autopsy of a beached whale discovered 20 square feet of disposable plastic bags in its stomach; many similar autopsies of animals have occurred in recent times.
So, what can people do in their day-to-day lives to help combat the damaging result of plastic bag overuse? People can start by spreading information about the dangers of plastic bags to those around them. People should not be afraid to not only refuse plastic bags at the grocery store checkout, but also explain their reasons for doing so. The most obvious action people can take is to commit to using reusable shopping bags. They might be slightly more inconvenient than their dangerous, disposable counterpart; however, inconvenience is truly a gross and pitiful argument against doing all we can to save our planet.