Flying in the air, hanging from the branches, stuck in corners racing along with the vehicles on the road are as we all can see plastic bags. This material of the has invaded every aspect of our lives; it infests the roads, the parks, clogs up drains and the gutters Plastic bags or shoppers as they are commonly known are available in all sizes, shapes and colors, and because of their lightweight, flexibility and low cost they are used and cast off freely.
Today people from all walks of life use plastic bags mainly because of their easy availability and convenience. Their use is so widespread that it is a wonder as to how people ever managed to do anything without them. There are a variety of bags available and they are put to different uses. Grocers pack the foods, grains, vegetables, fruits etc into clean transparent plastic bags, which keep the food in hygienic condition and even adds a touch of glitter to them. Apart from making it convenient for the consumer to buy them, these pre-weighed and clean packages help in saving time and energy for the buyer. Products like footwear, magazines, clothes, electronic items are all pre-packed in plastic bags before being sold.
In the home front students and office goers prefer to pack lunches in plastic bags saving the effort of carrying and washing lunch boxes. Housemaids use these bags to carry food from their places of work to their home. Deep freezers are stocked with food stored in plastic bags.
The plastic carry bags and plastic garbage bags too have become an indispensable part of our lives. Garbage packed in a plastic bag and then disposed of, keeps our homes free of flies and insects while a shopping spree becomes more convenient and fun when these disposable plastic bags are around to carry all the bought items. Manufactures have found these bags a novel way to advertise their merchandise and hence use it very effectively too.
Unobserved about 10 million plastic bags are thrown away everyday as waste. These bags cause blockage in the drainage and the sewerage system of the city causing water logging, germination of bacterial and water borne diseases, and spread of mosquitoes, etc. Water borne germs cause 80 diseases and only one piece of plastic can block a drain to cause water logging which in turn becomes a breeding ground for bacteria that cause these diseases.
The most useful and economic of the new technologies produces plastic which has the same strength and other qualities as conventional plastic, but degrades by a process of oxidation, initiated by putting a small amount of additive into the conventional plastic. There is little or no additional cost and there is no need to re-equip factories nor re-train the workforce. Oxo-biodegradable plastic can be safely used for direct contact with food. Unlike PVC, the polymers from which oxo-biodegradable plastics are made do not contain organo-chlorine, nor do they emit methane nor nitrous oxide when they degrade.
The IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) has found that plastic bags have harmful effects on the soil, water
and air. When these plastic bags are deposited in fields, they cause soil infertility. The buildup of plastic averts the sunlight from entering the soil thus destroying the beneficial bacteria, so necessary for soil fertility. The acidic make up of plastic disturbs the chemical formula of the soil, again causing loss of fertility. Plastic bags are picked up from the trash and recycled, therefore they tend to retain bacteria and other germs which are difficult to destroy, which in turn contaminates the food it will hold, causing ill health. Burning plastic in temperatures less than 800 degrees Celsius in open spaces creates noxious fumes such as hydrogen cyanide and other poisonous gases which cause air pollution resulting in skin, and respiratory problems and also certain kinds of cancer. When these plastic discards are dumped in water bodies they cause havoc in the environment and have disastrous effects on the species living underwater, and a lot of marine life is lost due to this. Listed below are some health hazards on land, and sea.
12 million plastic bags are handed out to shoppers in Britain every year.
10 million plastic bags are disposed of by Bangladesh nationals every year.
6 billion plastic bags are thrown away by Australians every minute.
The use of plastic in India has more than doubled in the last 20 years. It has increased from 1.8 million tons to about 5 million since 1995-96 up till now.
It is now up to individuals to weigh both the qualities and see for themselves what will outweigh the other. If we all do our little bit to keep our environment clean and healthy, we will be successful in handing a clean and a healthy environment to our next generation, which they so rightly deserve.