Plastic bags have been a staple when buying goods for many years. This has unfortunately lead to a downhill path.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States alone used and threw away 4 million tons of plastic bags and wraps in 2017. The vast majority of it was not recycled. This creates landfills filled with plastic that take up to 1,000 years to decompose. These landfills are so packed that plastic is taken and carried by the wind onto rivers, lakes, oceans, trees, ect. People who don’t care enough to properly dispose of their plastic are also responsible for plastic being where it shouldn’t. Stray plastic bags are able to block waterways or damage electrical wires, and most tragically, end up being in a poor sea animal’s stomach.
However, people recognize that this shouldn’t be happening and are actively trying to fix the issue. New York governor, Andrew Cuomo stated “For far too long, these bags have blighted our environment and clogged our waterways” in a proposition to ban plastic bags last year. New York was successful in banning it along with a growing list of other places. California, Hawaii, Oregon, along with 400 towns, counties, and cities have banned plastic bags completely or have at least placed restriction on them. Although banning plastic bags would help the environment, there’s also a downside.
Store owners and workers of the plastic bag industry are going to be hit negatively with the effects of a plastic bag ban. For store owners, plastic bags are cheap and allow customers to buy many items because of how stretchable and resilient they are. Since paper bags are more expensive, they might have to charge customers more, and no one likes to spend more money than they’re used to. According to the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, 30,000 American work in plastic bag manufacturing and recycling. If plastic bags were to be banned, then they all risk losing their jobs. For this reason some states have passed laws to prevent the banning or taxing of plastic bags.
Although there are reasons to keep plastic bags, we cannot deny the fact that plastic bags are causing enormous problems when it comes to littering. Plastic bags are not biodegradable, but paper bags are. However, the complete ban of plastic in exchange for paper would also cause problems. In my opinion, the way to fix this issue is by reusing the same bag, whether it be plastic or something else. That way plastic could still be created without the crazy amount of litter. To conclude, it is our job to stop the suffering of our planet’s animals and clean up this mess.