The hazard of plastic bags in the ocean is greater than ever before. While plastic bags remain a benefit to retailers and consumers, their impact on the environment needs to be reconsidered.
The Environmental Impact of Plastic
In recent years, plastic bags have been a hot environmental topic. While there are several advantages to plastic bags, in general the disadvantages to the environment are becoming more apparent.
While biodegradable plastics are becoming available, most of the plastic bags used every day still take years to begin to break down. When and if this process does start to occur, toxins used in the bags manufacturing begin to leach into the environment, poisoning everything around them.
Additionally, even those plastics which are biodegradable will still release toxins as they break down, while consuming vast amounts of oxygen in the process.
Effects on Marine Life
Since plastic bags don't decompose, they can often end up in rivers, lakes and oceans. Plastic bags in the ocean are a huge hazard to marine life. The bags can be swallowed, wrapped around the necks or fins or animals and poison the waters around them as they leach chemicals into the water.
Plastic Bags in the Ocean
Disturbing reports have been coming from areas near the Pacific Ocean for years now. Giant swaths of plastic bags are seen floating in the water, the largest of which is thought to be the size of Texas. These bags are poisoning the water around them and are a huge hazard for nearby eco systems and marine life.
These toxic patches of plastic bags are too large to be cleaned up. Estimates calculate that the patch of plastic has grown tenfold each decade since the 1950s when it was first discovered. And unless the reliance on plastic bags decreases, it will continue to grow, acting as a trap for fish and sea dwelling mammals, as well as destroying entire eco systems.
What Can You do to Help
While it is too late to clean up the plastic bags in the ocean, it is not too late to stop their growth. Consumers can do their part in a number of ways to help reduce the amount of plastic that finds its way into the ocean each year.
Reuse the Bags for Another Purpose
If you do use plastic shopping bags, make sure that you get as much use out of them as possible, to reduce the number of bags you use each year.
- Combine shopping purchases into one large bag
- Use plastic grocery bags as trash bags and trash can liners
- Take the bags back to the grocery store with you and use them a second or third time
Recycle the Bags
Once you are done with the plastic bags, recycle them rather than throwing them away. Most grocery stores have a receptacle available for the recycling of these bags. Just bring extra bags back with you on your next trip.
Use a Cloth or Reusable Bag Instead
Rather than using plastic bags in the first place, use a reusable shopping bag instead. Reusable bags are available at most grocery stores and other retailers and some grocery stores will even credit you back up to .05 cents per bag used. Reusable bags are available in multiple prints and styles, and some are even recycled from old plastics, such as the bags distributed by Whole Foods, which are made from recycled water bottles.
Use Biodegradable Plastic Whenever Possible
While biodegradable plastic is still far from perfect, it is a better choice than traditional plastics. Whenever possible, use products such as plastic bags made from biodegradable plastic that will break down faster, rather than sitting for years in the ocean.
While it may seem too late to do anything about the massive amounts of plastic already built up in the ocean, reducing your impact today can help ensure that the plastic garbage heap in the ocean doesn't grow and threaten more ocean life.