Most anyone who decides to enjoy a long walk through an area park, or perhaps walks barefoot on the sand at a nearby beach will undoubtedly find a few plastic bags before too long. This is a growing problem which has to be addressed on a global level.
Why can't shoppers stop using plastic bags? But the problem does not stop if everyone begins using other kinds of bags. Stronger, heavier bags, whether made of fabric or plastic, have a bigger environmental impact than standard supermarket shopping bags.
Single-use bags, both paper and plastic, represent a huge threat to the environment. This threat is not only related to the sheer volume of them ending up in landfill, but also to the resources needed to produce, transport and (occasionally) recycle them, and the emissions resulting from these processes. Single-use plastic bags are also well known for their interference in ecosystems and the part they play in flood events, where they clog pipes and drains.
According to published statistics, about 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year alone. That’s more than 1,200 bags per US resident every year. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags and only 1 to 2% of plastic bags in the USA end up getting recycled. Thousands of marine animals and more than 1 million birds die each year as a result of plastic pollution.
Marine debris impacts the environment, economy, and human health and safety. The extent of the impacts is determined by the type of marine debris and where it settles in the ocean (e.g., submerged, floating, or within a sensitive habitat). Fishing nets, plastic bags, and tires can sink to the ocean floor and break and smother coral reefs. Fishing line can float along the ocean surface and catch vessel propellers causing costly damage. A syringe can wash up on the beach and be stepped on by a beach goer resulting in a wound and possibly an infection. Regardless of the type or the location of the marine debris, it can have serious impacts.