Why are plastic bags so bad?
Did you know that every piece of plastic you’ve used in your life is still in existence? That’s because plastic bags can take up to 500 years to disintegrate and end up polluting landfills and waterways, harming humans, wildlife, and sea creatures. Animals such as seabirds, turtles and marine mammals can be severely affected by swallowing or becoming tangled in plastic bags, affecting their mobility, ability to eat and in some cases cause suffocation and death. Even after this, the plastic can remain in the environment, affecting even more wildlife.
According to the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning:
- Over a million plastic bags are in use around the world every minute
- 80% of marine litter is plastic
- Approximately one million seabirds and over 100,000 mammals die every year from plastic ingestion or entanglement
- A study by the University of Queensland found 30% of turtles autopsied were found to have plastics, including plastic bags, in their intestinal tract
Also, whilst cheap to produce, clearing plastic is an expensive endeavour that continues to trash our planet, which affects future generations.
What will happen if we keep using plastic bags?
It’s estimated that our oceans contain over five trillion pieces of plastic, with eight million tonnes being added every year. This affects sea creatures, land animals and future generations.
The litter itself will become increasingly hard to manage and dispose of. Plastic bags can blow into open spaces, waterways, and land areas, creating a literal sea of garbage affecting all living things.
Additionally, the clean-up alone costs the Victorian Government around $80 million dollars a year.
While each Australian is estimated to use 65kg of plastic annually, plastic production is expected to quadruple by 2050.
What is being done about it?
Over 30 countries worldwide now have plans in place to reduce the use of lightweight plastic bags. Since 2019, all states and territories (except NSW) banned lightweight plastic shopping bags from food outlets, retailers and more. Stores have been encouraged to provide ‘reusable alternatives’ such as reusable plastic bags, green, cotton, or hessian bags.