Plastic bags are the preferred mode of packaging for many products in the markets of today. This is due to the fact that they are light, inexpensive and easy to produce. They are also utilized in agriculture for cultivating crops in controlled environments besides being used in the manufacture of protective material. However, plastic is made of synthetic polymers that constitute the non-biodegradable and inorganic material like Styrene (Aquinus, 2010). The nature of the plastic material makes its disposal a challenge that leads into pollution. This research looks into the dangers brought about by the use of plastic bags and possible solutions to the problem.
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Dangers of plastic bags
Plastic bags present various forms of dangers and hazards to human beings and the environment. To start with, pose a hygiene problem as their poor disposal leads to blockage of sanitary and drainage systems. This accelerates cases of water borne illnesses amongst people in the neighborhoods (Mathias, 2009). Moreover, the lack poor disposal of plastic bags affects agricultural activities as it hinders water penetration into the soil besides interfering with the formation of manure. To add to this, the photo-gradable plastics are easily broken down by light into chemicals that are harmful in nature (Bushnell, n.d). The production of the bags results into environmental pollution as chemicals emitted into the atmosphere interfere with the water and rainfall cycles. The manufacture of the bags is also viewed as wastage of natural resources as it depletes the quantities of petroleum that could have been potentially helpful in other areas (Vera, 2010).
Animals are also negatively affected as consumption of plastic. Poor disposal results in death and suffocation for aquatic animals. Marine life is affected by plastic bags disposed into the sea, for instance the case spotted at the North of the Arctic Circle as well as the South close to the Falkland Islands (Moorthy, 2010). Studies indicate that plastic bags constitute 10 percent of waste deposited at the U.S coastline. Furthermore, the increased deposit of plastic bags at one location leads to increased toxicity as they breakdown into petro-polymers. In the long run, the toxic substances attributed to these plastic bags end up in the food chain as they are transformed into microscopic particles (World-Wildlife-Fund-Report, 2003).
Over the years, debate has been raging on whether to ban the use of plastic bags. People opposed to the ban argue that the perfect remedy would be to educate people on proper plastic bags disposal. Plastic bag are compared to the other household accessories such as needles in that parents teach children on the usage and should therefore user education is imperative as well (Vera, 2010). This idea is however limited by the fact that educating people is a challenging task. In India for example, a family unit has been found to use an estimated 10 kilogram every year. Countries such as Bangladesh and China have prohibited the use of plastic bags to mitigate the effects they have on the environment. Other countries in Europe such as Ireland have imposed heavy taxation on the utilization of plastic bags while in Africa, Rwanda banned the use of the material (Erikson, 2010). The efforts to prohibit the use of these bags have been limited by the commercial gains attributed to the plastic bags that reduce support for laws against them. This is in addition to the observation that developing countries make up a major market for the bags from the developed world.
In order to counter the problems brought about by the bags, several measures need to be taken. Technology has been used to come up with degradable plastic bags from the combination of plastic with starch or the photogradable type of plastic. Moreover, the plastic bags can be broken down by use of chemicals so that they dissolve for utilization as protective wax. However, this type of plastic is limited by its high cost of production as well as the fact that it cannot be recycled. Another way of alleviating the plastic bag program is through the adoption of other forms of more eco-friendly ways of product packaging and transportation (Moorthy, 2010). This also implies that manufactures should be involved in solving the problem by providing better methods of disposal for their plastic-packaged products. The challenges posed by plastic bags can also be mitigated through sustainable consumption that can be facilitated by recycling of used plastic (Bushnell n.d). It is also important that people be educated and informed on the negative effects of the plastic bags in order to refrain from poor disposal and littering.
In conclusion, the plastic bags are a convenient method of packaging and transport for products but one that is hazardous to the environment, animals and marine wildlife as well as human beings. Its effects include death, pollution and waterborne diseases. This problem should therefore be solved through methods such as recycling and use of degradable plastic.
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