Banning Plastic Bags Is An Intuitive Environmental Solution That Falls Short — Here's Why.
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Banning Plastic Bags Is An Intuitive Environmental Solution That Falls Short — Here’s Why.

Banning Plastic Bags Is An Intuitive Environmental Solution That Falls Short — Here’s Why.

Plastic bags are a major contributor to environmental damage. Ranging from harming marine life to creating landfills containing over 250 million tons in waste, plastic bags are a concern for activists all around the world. Furthermore, only one percent of plastic bags are returned for recycling. So, intuitively, banning plastic bags might make sense as an environmental solution.

And with that intuition, lawmakers and politicians have acted. Indeed, they have moved forward with banning plastic bags. Largely, they have assumed that banning plastic bags might encourage consumers to use reusable bags and for retailers that continue to use plastic bags, they’ll simply hit them with fines.

States such as California, New York, and Oregon have already decided on banning plastic bags. But it’s not all good. According to researchers, banning plastic bags doesn’t come without adverse effects.

Banning Plastic Bags May Increase Environmental Costs of Production

Research conducted by Oregon’s DEQ indicates that the process of creating reusable bags creates a comparatively worse impact on the environment than plastic bags.

The study claims that most of the environmental impact occurs when the product is produced, not when it is sent to landfills. 

The process of extracting, refining, and manufacturing from raw materials to create reusable bags is much cheaper for plastic bags.

In fact, the single-use plastic bag creates the least amount of environmental impact. On the other hand, a cotton bag creates ten times the impact of any other bag.

Banning Plastic Bags May Lead to the Production of More Garbage Bags

According to a study conducted by Canadian environmental organization Recyc-Quebec, plastic bags provide an alternative to the larger garbage bags.

Both thin and light, plastic bags can be refactored into garbage bags some 77.7% of the time. This is both an environmental and economic advantage for plastic bags.

One Use of a Reusable Bag is Not Equivalent to One Use of a Plastic Bag

Due to different types of bags requiring more amounts of energy to create, consumers must use their reusable bags many times before they are actually environmentally friendly.

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Credit: CHARLES REX ARBOGAST / AP

For example, you would have to use a cotton bag 173 times before it lowered the environmental impact. 

You only have to use paper bags about four times before it becomes environmentally friendly. However, these bags are lower-quality compared to cotton or plastic bags.

What Can You Do to Help?

The best thing that a consumer can do decrease the number of bags they use regardless of it being plastic or reusable. Furthermore, consumers should be mindful of reducing the number of times they throw away bags.

Reusing both plastic and reusable bags until they are unable to function is also a great way to help the environment.

Both individuals and manufacturers are capable of creating change when it comes to the plastic pollution crisis. All it takes is for both parties to be more mindful of the things that they use and throw away.

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