Paper or plastic a simple choice that has important environmental consequences. It can be hard to know for sure, which has a smaller impact because plastic bags are such a presence in everyday life. It can be easy to overlook the damage they caused. In order to understand what kind of choices it has in consumers in an environmentally unethical system.
The first plastic Bakelite was originally invented in 1907, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that plastic, specifically polyethylene became cheap and efficient to make. Soon after the 1960s, garbage bags exploded in popularity because it was marketed and made as a single-use product. Their cheap manufacturing cost allowed them the become the default choice at a supermarket, but the problem is the low price doesn’t account for the environmental cost of using garbage bags.
According to a study conducted by the English Environment Agency, resource extraction, and raw materials production accounts for 60% of the environmental footprint of garbage bags. In other words, 60% of the bag’s environmental impact happens before it even out the groceries in them, and although post-use impact accounts for less than half of a bag’s total environmental impact. It is also part of the bags life that consumers can most easily control. It’s estimated that the US alone throws away 100 billion plastic bags annually, only a fraction of which gets recycled.
In general, most of these printed bags make their way into waterways and float along the ocean currents until they make it to the five oceanic gyres that are created by circular currents. These garbage bags could take over 500 years to degrade. The bags don’t maintain their original shape; however, instead, of the slow break down via sun, water, and microbial erosion to smaller bits called microplastics, which can be fatal to marine life. Considering the adverse effects of plastics bags, it would make sense then to buy a cloth reusable bag or opt for the paper bag.