Plastic bags are made from ethylene which is a byproduct of petroleum and natural gas. In spite of them helping people with carrying goods and food, they are a threat to the environment and most of the land animals and sea creatures. To begin with, plastic bags are a threat to animals such as cows and goats leading to death to the animals that ingest them. Not only do eating plastic bags result in the death of cows and goats but also camels and other desert animals (Halden, 2010). Additionally, sea creatures such as whales have been found washed up to the coasts with their bodies full of plastic bags.
Secondly, the burning of plastic bags causes emissions of gasses to the atmosphere that contains high levels of poisonous chemicals. These gasses are unhealthy when inhaled, and they reduce the amount of oxygen in the air. They can also cause respiratory problems to the animals when inhaled. When plastic bags are disposed of in bins as litter, they get carried away by the winds and can remain as small pieces in a particular area for an extended period (Adane & Muleta, 2011). This is because they are non-biodegradable and the small pieces can be carried to the waterways. These pieces can be mistaken to be food by the sea creatures, especially mammals because of their size, shape, and texture. This causes toxicity and intestinal blockage for the animals leading to slow deaths (Thompson et al, 2009).
The longtime taken for the breakdown of plastic bags threatens the natural progression of plants and wildlife. This leads to suffocation of nutrients in the soil which leads to the death of plants and eventually impacting animals as well as human beings (Njeru, 2006). The land litter that comprises plastic bags has the potential to suffocate and cause digestion problems to the land animals. The reduction of nutrients in soils leads to a decrease in food sources and thus causing starvation.
Plastic bags cause land pollution when dumped in landfills. Winds that carry these plastic bags from landfills lead to a dirty environment with litters all over. The litters can also get stuck on poles, trees, and fences as well as towers. Also, plastic bags lead to groundwater pollution. When it rains, it interacts with water resulting in the formation of hazardous chemicals. The seeping of this chemicals underground leads to a reduction in water quality. This makes groundwater more susceptible to leaking environmental toxins. These toxins pose a threat to marine life including fish and also the consumers of the fish such as people (Huang, Bird & Heidrich, 2007).
The use and exposure to plastic bags are harmful to human beings because they are made from toxic chemicals. This leads to health concerns to the people as well as other living things. Finally, plastic bags are costly to recycle and clean the affected areas exposed by them. It is even more expensive when there are deaths caused by the plastic bags (Sheavly & Register, 2007).
Identify solutions to reduce these problems
The use of plastic bags should be minimized, and measures are undertaken to mitigate their risks. One of the measures to be taken includes recycling of the plastic bags. Even though it is expensive to recycle the bags, recycling them will help minimize land pollution. Also, recycling them will make them be reused all over again for an extended period. People should be encouraged to embrace recycling to promote sound management of litter (Hopewell, Dvorak & Kosior, 2009).
Secondly, alternatives should be sought to the use of plastic bags. This includes using paper bags that are less harmful to the environment. Additionally, there should be an introduction of reusable plastic bags. They have advantages over the regular plastic bags because they are durable and can be used for a long time. A good example is a cloth bag that is becoming increasingly acceptable to the world today. This will help protect environmental concerns (Ayalon et al, 2009).
Finally, there should be a campaign to discourage people from buying bottled water. This is because most of the individuals who buy bottled water throw the bottles away after finishing drinking the water. Instead, they should be encouraged to carry reusable water bottles that will be used to bring water from home (OBrine & Thompson, 2010). Also, they should be encouraged to cook more or bring their packing containers when buying foods. This will not only reduce plastic bag usage but enhance healthy eating. This is because when hot food comes into contact with plastic bags, it releases chemicals that mix with the food and thus causing health concerns (Ngoc & Schnitzer, 2009). Finally, second-hand materials should be encouraged for purchase to minimize the packaging that comes with buying new materials and gadgets. This saves money too.
Adane, L., & Muleta, D. (2011). Survey on the usage of plastic bags, their disposal and adverse impacts on environment: A case study in Jimma City, Southwestern Ethiopia. journal of toxicology and environmental health sciences, 3(8), 234-248.
Ayalon, O., Goldrath, T., Rosenthal, G., & Grossman, M. (2009). Reduction of plastic carrier bag use: An analysis of alternatives in Israel. Waste Management, 29(7), 2025-2032.
Halden, R. U. (2010). Plastics and health risks. Annual review of public health, 31, 179-194.
Hopewell, J., Dvorak, R., & Kosior, E. (2009). Plastics recycling: challenges and opportunities. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526), 2115-2126.
Huang, Y., Bird, R. N., & Heidrich, O. (2007). A review of the use of recycled solid waste materials in asphalt pavements. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 52(1), 58-73.
Ngoc, U. N., & Schnitzer, H. (2009). Sustainable solutions for solid waste management in Southeast Asian countries. Waste management, 29(6), 1982-1995.
Njeru, J. (2006). The urban political ecology of plastic bag waste problem in Nairobi, Kenya. Geoforum, 37(6), 1046-1058.
OBrine, T., & Thompson, R. C. (2010). Degradation of plastic carrier bags in the marine environment. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 60(12), 2279-2283.
Sheavly, S. B., & Register, K. M. (2007). Marine debris & plastics: environmental concerns, sources, impacts and solutions. Journal of Polymers and the Environment, 15(4), 301-305.
Thompson, R. C., Moore, C. J., Vom Saal, F. S., & Swan, S. H. (2009). Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526), 2153-2166.
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