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By Sylvia Ubal
To make plastic bags you need a precious non-renewable natural resource, oil, which in addition to being a fossil fuel that generates pollution is running out. And do we waste it making more bags made of plastic? Each year in the world approximately between 500 billion and a trillion bags are produced that are given away in stores, supermarkets and commercial establishments and that will become garbage within minutes of their use, since we have become dependent on these practices , but dangerous and polluting ways to load our purchases.
However, who cares about the fate of plastic bags? Especially in a consumer society and in an environmental subculture where no one stops to think about the damage that it indirectly causes to the environment every time it leaves. a shopping center carrying with it that kind of plastic containers that, when you get home, temporarily use them to store or wrap an object, but in the long run it will give to the garbage dump, if not you throw them out on the street and that most of these go to our rivers, lakes, seas and oceans of the world through drains and gullies and hopefully in immense deposits of waste, where to degrade they must wait five hundred years or more to disappear, while in the middle of their decomposition process contaminates the soil not only visually but also chemically.
Around 100,000 marine animals such as penguins, whales, turtles, seals, fish, porpoises, seabirds and dolphins die each year due to the ingestion of plastic bags that have become garbage and that fill seas and oceans and the worst thing is that a once its victim has died and decomposes, the plastic bag does not degrade and becomes a deadly element for other animals.
A plastic bottle can have a life of 450 years and its thousands of non-biodegradable millimeter fragments, very resistant and stable, are a threat to these animals that often mistake them for food.
20% of the garbage collected from the beaches are plastic bags together with containers of liquor, sodas, beers and other cans; In other words, in addition to causing the death of many species, they have become garbage that pollutes the landscape and accumulates on beaches around the world, thanks to people who throw them away without any consideration or care.
The North American National Academy of Sciences of the USA carried out a study in this regard, having come to determine that the transoceanic vessels together dumped 4 million kilos of plastic into the sea, and that is the reason why the world's garbage dumps are saturated of plastic bags; while thousands of them are dragged to different places on Earth. Plastic bags have been found floating in the North of the Arctic Circle and in the Falkland Islands.
In China one of the main concerns is garbage, the plastic bags that fly through the streets are called "white pollution". That it will save 37 million barrels of oil every year thanks to the ban on free plastic bags In South Africa, the bags are so notorious in the field that they have earned the disparaging title of "national flowers" because broken and tangled in the bushes they announce us that we are approaching a city, or that we see floating out from the window of a car.
Taking drastic measures
Some countries are cracking down on the use of plastic bags. In some countries they have simply decided that if someone wants their bag in the cellar, it will cost a few pennies. Drastic and effective measure although it does not attack the roots of the problem.
Among the countries that have banned or taken actions to discourage the use of plastic bags is Ireland, which was the first in Europe to tax plastic bags in 2002. In this way, it has reduced consumption by 90 %. Australia, Bangladesh, Italy, South Africa, and Taiwan. Mumbay (formerly Bombay), India, has also banned bags. Israel, Canada, West India, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Taiwan and Singapore have also banned plastic bags.
On March 27, 2007, San Francisco became the first US city to ban plastic bags, according to NPR.org (National Public Radio). Oakland and Boston are considering a ban.
Australians used about 7 billion bags a year, and about 1.2 billion of them a year were delivered free in Ireland before government restrictions, according to government estimates.
In Ireland there are legislative proposals for a tax of about 20 percent that end customers have had to pay for each plastic bag since March 2002. The use of plastic bags in Ireland fell by more than 90 percent after The tax was passed, and the government has raised millions of dollars for recycling programs. Similar legislation was introduced some time ago in Scotland and is under discussion in the rest of the UK.
In Australia, about 90 percent of retail businesses have signed voluntary agreements with the government to reduce the use of plastic bags. A law that came into effect last year requires restaurants, supermarkets and warehouses to charge customers for plastic bags and utensils. This law has resulted in a 69% reduction in the use of plastic products, according to press reports.
“Every piece of trash has a human face behind it. If they are harmful to the environment in terms of visual impairment, then people need to stop littering the environment, ”said Rob Krebs, spokesman for the American Plastics Council.
Studies conducted by a Californian environmental group on the use of plastic bags estimate that North Americans use about 84 billion plastic bags annually.
The first plastic sandwich bags were introduced in 1957. Department stores began using plastic bags in the late 1970s, and supermarket chains began using them in the early 1980s. Fortunately, many countries are raising awareness by banning typical plastic bags and / or replacing them with biodegradable bags.
What can we do?
As long as the laws do not change, we must become aware of the danger they represent and avoid their use, using bags made of other materials that we can use many times when going shopping.
If we use a cloth bag, we can save 6 bags per week, 24 bags per month, 288 bags per year, 22,176 bags during an average life. If only 1 in 5 people in our country did this, we would save 1,330,560,000,000 bags during our lives. Another possibility is to be careful in the way we dispose of them, not the boats in the field or the beach, try to deposit them in places authorized to leave garbage. Another very useful way is recycling them. The bags that you bring from the shopping use them to deposit your garbage instead of buying more plastic bags to put your garbage inside.
And finally, let's educate our children on the importance of caring for our environment and the damage we are doing.
If we take these small measures within our reach, which do not involve a great effort and together, they can avoid enormous damage to our mother earth and to those who live on it. Using non-plastic returnable bags is a way to collaborate and stop pollution and improve the state of the planet.