Impact of Plastic

Plastic

It’s everywhere.  A trip to the grocery store will tell us that most items are packaged in plastic, which are put in a plastic shopping cart, possibly paid for with a plastic card and carried out in plastic bags.  The conveniences of plastic have made a positive impact on virtually every facet of our life.  Although plastics have had a remarkable impact it is increasingly obvious there is a price to be paid for their use.

Before you toss that plastic bag, the plastic ring from a 6-pack or the empty beverage bottle, stop and think.  You play an important role as a consumer and can make a big difference in whether or not you create a problem for the environment.

The Impact of Plastic

Many plastics remain floating on the surface of our waterways, the place where many food sources lie making them attractive to species of marine life. 86% of ocean debris is plastic. Plastic degrades due to solar radiation and oxidation into smaller and smaller pieces, all of which are still plastic polymers, eventually becoming individual molecules of plastic dust.

In 2004 English scientists reported on tiny, even microscopic plastic fragments that have worked their way down and are polluting deep ocean sediments and are now in the plankton, the very bottom of the food chain. (Richard Thompson, source: Science magazine)

Over 1,000,000 seabirds and marine mammals die each year from plastic ingestion of entanglement. Dolphins will eat pieces of plastic sheeting they mistake for jellyfish and other prey. Young ones can strangle on ingested plastic. Dolphins may also become entangled in recreational fishing line or plastic strapping, which can drown them, or wrap around and amputate their appendages. Bottle caps and other plastic objects are visible inside the decomposed carcass of this Laysan albatross on Kure Atoll, which lies in a remote and virtually uninhabited region of the North Pacific. The bird probably mistook the plastics for food and ingested them while foraging for prey.
(source: http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Ocean/Moore-Trashed…)

Life of a Plastic Shopping Bag:

  • Made of virgin resins (#2 or #4)
  • Does not biodegrade!
  • Health laws and business economics limit recycled content
  • Less than 1% are recycled

The number of disposable bags used worldwide exceeds 100 billion annually. A study (1997) showed 58% of Human prefer paper to plastic, yet a report from Film and Bag Federation found that 4 out of 5 grocery bags used are plastic. Almost no plastic grocery bags have any recycled content. In contrast, paper bags typically have 25-40% or even 60% recovered paper fiber.

Supermarkets push plastic bags – because they cost them a about half of what a paper bag costs (4 cents vs. 8 cents), and because they are so light they are cheaper to transport. Grocery bags are at the top of their operating expenses so they have jumped at the chance to cut costs there and push use of plastic over paper.

Even bags recycled at the markets are often land-filled, and super-market collection represents the only real cycling of bags that is taking place.

Plastics manufacturers like to argue it takes less energy to make a plastic bag than a paper one. The stats on this are confusing, as the anti-plastics camp says it depends on how you calculate it. Either way, the fact remains there is no closed loop on plastic bags, and whatever it is recycled into is an end product here for centuries.

So plastic or paper bag?

Article source: IWMA

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