It's easy to think of the negative effects of plastic bags on the environment when you consider that 100 billion plastic bags are used each year in the United States and that they take up to 1,000 years to break down. Fifty years ago there were no bags on this planet. Now consider based on their break down rate that every bag ever manufactured, except for the recycled or incinerated ones are either filling our landfills, polluting our waterways or hanging in our kitchen closets as clutter.
Often comforts of everyday life, things we now consider a necessity were developed and pushed into our lives only because they were the cheapest option. Long-term costs, such as the impact on our environment and the clean up of it weren't considered. This appears to be the case with plastic bags.
• Dependence on Foreign Oil – Plastic bags are manufactured using polyethylene a byproduct of oil. Roughly 60 to 100 million barrels of oil go into their production each year. China recently banned the use of plastic bags and their estimated savings in oil was about 37 million barrels per year.
• They Take a Very, Very Long Time to Break Down – Plastic bags haven't been around for long, less than fifty years. So no one knows for sure how long they take to break down. One thing is for sure though; all the plastic bags that haven't been recycled or incinerated are still on this planet in landfills, floating in the ocean, littering our parks, roadways and lakes, or just piled in corners of our closets, garages or kitchens. Grocery bags are made from polyethylene and are photodegradable and not biodegradable. Being photodegradable means, these bags need sunlight to break down. Therefore, burying them in a landfill accomplishes nothing other than to hide the problem and create mountains of trash buried out of sight. When and if they do degrade, they simply break down into smaller more toxic microscopic particles called petrol-polymers that seep into waterways and eventually enter our food chain.
• Plastic Bags Account for 10% of Debris Washed Up On Our Shoreline – They have been seen floating in the oceans, and washing up on shorelines as far North as the Arctic Circle and as far south as The Falkland Islands. What an awful eyesore to our planet as a whole.
• Kill Hundreds of Thousands of Animals Per Year – Believing the bags to be food, marine wildlife choke on the bags and die or they enter their digestive systems until they die. After death their bodies decompose, but not the bags.
Plastic bags are cheap, efficient and strong. They make shopping simple and easy. However plastic bags have many negative effects on the environment. They increase our dependence on foreign oil, pollute our waterways, fill our landfills, kill our wildlife and are an eyesore.