The value of sacrifice is best taught by two mothers. First, the human mother and second, mother nature. God created nature to support life and even though we have not only used but exploited every bit of it, it has stood by us. In 1933 when Imperial Chemical Industries researchers Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett discovered polyethylene, they had no idea that they were giving two different things to the world and the environment. Now in 2014 when we do know the difference, we are still not ready to give up our facilities for the sake of nature. And why not? After all a poly-bag to carry things around is much more important for survival than the nature, no? Well our conscience may differ but our actions have already made the choice.
Plastic bags do have some qualities to brag about. They have a high strength with acute thinness, are water resistant, cheap to make and easy to carry around. But the question is, are these qualities enough to ignore everything they have against the nature? Being non-biodegradable is just the worst thing about them, which helps keep eyes off the other bad ones. Now, since the harmfulness of these plastic bags is out for everyone to see, should they be banned to help save the environment or should their use be continued just because it’s a profitable industry? Well our conscience may differ but our actions have already made the choice.
In plastic industries, plastic bags are made from polyethylene, a petroleum product and their production alone contributes to air pollution and energy consumption. On a minor scale this has no effect whatsoever on the environment but plastic isn’t a minor industry. 4-5 trillion plastic bags are manufactured each year and the air pollution caused due to such high scale production can easily prove to be a health hazard. And when these 4-5 trillion bags are used up and thrown away carelessly, their non-biodegradable nature takes its toll on the soil. According to an American study, Americans use about 380 plastic bags per year and throw away 100 billion of them.
So clearly they have become a prominent part of our lives over the years and we treat these small things so carelessly that the big havoc they have been creating in the environment goes unnoticed. 4-5 trillion is the manufacturing per year and of every 100 trillion, 1% is recycled. That means plastic bags made in three months are recycled over a period of twenty five years. The rest of them are either burnt, adding immensely to the air pollution or are left to rot the ground. It takes 1000 years for a single plastic bag to break down. Until then, it just holds its place inside the soil, hampering its productivity. They occupy spaces in dumping grounds as burying them in compost pits is going to make negative difference only. Hence they are practically immortal, lasting almost as much as ten human generations.
And what about those plastic bags that neither end up within the air nor underneath the ground but within the living animals? They find their way to some dumping area where they are eaten by some animal or through some gutter or drain into the water bodies and then into some marine animal’s body. Their ingestion occasionally chokes the animal, robbing it of its life. 1 billion seabirds and mammals die every year by ingesting plastic bags and so do 100,000 marine mammals. Thus plastic lays its wrath on whole of the biosphere and not just a part of it. The harmful effects are always there, whether it is burnt in the air, dumped into ground or exposed for some animal to eat it eventually.
The use of plastic in life is as prominent as its harmful effects. It is an impossible task to completely stop its use. What about some alternative then? Paper bags? They may not have as many qualities as plastic does and may also be a bit costly to make as compared to plastic but in the long run, they outrun it. Their Eco-friendly nature helps to overcome environmental threats posed by plastic. Another alternative is the recently discovered biodegradable plastic. It exists in two kinds; bio plastics, whose components are derived from renewable raw materials and plastics made from petrochemicals with biodegradable additives like starch which enhance bio-degradation. Their use also fulfills the need without harming the nature.
There’s not much to say in the end. It’s not like there is any competition between the good and the bad. Plastic has long been known to have adverse effects on soil composition and their continued use is only making the situation dearer. The use of alternatives needs to be pushed with much force so as to replace the plastic and save the life-supporter. Nature has provided answer to every problem we have ever faced and hence, shouldn’t we be there when nature calls? Is the betterment of environment also a part of humanity or is it just the betterment of other humans? Now is no longer the time to analyze the situation and the sooner we, as individuals, start taking up the responsibility of eradicating plastic bags from our lives, the better it will be for our lives.