There’s no refuting it. Single-use disposable plastic bags are destroying the planet, with over 60,000 plastic bags being consumed in the U.S. every four seconds. They are made with non-renewable resources, either natural gas or petroleum. They take large amounts of energy to assemble, transport across the nation and recycle.
They don’t decompose in landfill sites. However, over time, they release hazardous chemicals. They’re very hard to recycle, creating issues like blocking the sorting machine used by many recycling facilities, contributing to a huge, global litter issue. And that’s not the end.
The Human Impact
On land, plastic bags are one of the most usual types of litter around the globe. Build-ups of plastic bags are infamous for creating blockages of local drainage systems in developing countries. The floods in Bangladesh and common flooding in Manila can be credited to blockages created by this litter. Also, plastic bags create real health hazards to the population. Over time, they leak toxic chemicals into drinking water supplies.
Plastic bags are very hard to recycle. The usual three-arrow recyclable symbol is found on plastic packaging across the nation. However, in numerous cases, it’s a marketing trick. There’s no regulation of the symbol or legal requirements for the way it is used.
Each municipality in the U.S. has different rules on what it can’t and can recycle. Many of the plastic bags accumulated by recycling companies can’t be recycled or reused. The industries that make them don’t want to buy them back.
Therefore, most recycled bags end up in landfill sites or are transported to Asia where workers in sweatshop conditions cherry-pick our garbage looking for plastics that can be reused or melted down. Not only are these enterprises quagmires for labor issues and human rights issues, but the toxic open-melting techniques they use are also a big concern for human health.