We drop the vegetables in one bag, and the detergent in the other. We do not hesitate to take an extra bag ‘for support’; just in case a bag gives way. We marvel at the colourful bag given at the cloth showroom and decide to take another one. And, at super markets, all our purchases are dutifully put in bags and handed over to us.
Ever wondered, what is it that makes plastic bags so ‘useful’? Plastic bags are cheap to produce, durable, water-resistant, and come in a variety of sizes to suit our needs. They are versatile. Most of us use them because they are handy. So, why would anyone ever have a problem with it right? Wrong!
Plastic bags are made from polyethylene. Ethylene is derived from petroleum and natural gas. Plastic bags are one of the many products refined from crude oil. Scientists estimate that we will see an increasingly limited supply of crude oil within the next few decades. The more we use plastic bags, the more we are wasting a non-renewable energy source – oil. Plastic bags are also non-biodegradable and take eons to breakdown, making them omnipresent. Some plastic bags can be recycled. However, the process of recycling involves shredding and melting them; producing carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides and other toxic gases. We would not want to see toxic cemeteries on top of all our environmental woes. Neither is this an economically viable option. So, while recycling has its place, it cannot provide the sole answer to the threat of using plastic bags.
Today, there is a universal consensus to limit the use of plastic bags due to the detrimental effects it has on our environment. Plastic bags tend to clog up our streets, gutters, and harm marine life. Lack of civic sense and responsibility among us results in plastic bags causing imbalance in the ecosystem.
While it is incorrect to blame plastic for all the harmful effects on the environment, one cannot turn a blind eye to the harmful effects caused by it. Hence, decreasing their usage becomes imperative.
The dramatic increase in plastic bag usage has prompted states such as Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, and West `Bengal to impose bans on certain types of plastic bags. We too can make a difference by making a responsible choice. Remember, we are not trying to achieve zero tolerance to plastic bags. Most of the items on store shelves are packaged in plastic. While we cannot completely eliminate the use of plastic bags, we can surely reduce their use significantly.
Here’s what you can do. Keep a couple of reusable bags (example: cloth bags) handy, so that you can use them when you go shopping. It may be difficult to remember to have one always, but over a period of time, it will become a habit. Reuse the plastic bags already at home. Take them to the grocery store, the next time you go. That way you can politely refuse the new plastic bags given by the vendors. And by doing so, you would have contributed to a ‘clean and green’ environment.