Source: Sunil Duggal – Business Line
In the last decade, we produced more plastic than in the whole of last century. Fifty per cent of the plastic we use is single-use or disposable. We buy one million plastic bottles every minute. Plastic makes up 10 per cent of all of the waste we generate.
Plastic bags tend to disrupt the environment in a serious way. They get into the soil and slowly release toxic chemicals. Animals eat them and often choke and die. Plastic bags pollute the Earth in two major ways. They are thrown into landfills and there, they stay and contaminate the Earth for at least 1,000 years and leak toxins into the Earth and also affect fresh water reserves. This is known as photo-degrading. They also release methane into the air and harm our ozone layer. Only carbon-dioxide pollutes more than the methane released from plastic bags.

Many countries are trying to take steps toward banning them but only a handful of cities in the US are trying to do anything about them. In fact, the US alone uses 380-400 million plastic bags annually. Plastic bags are becoming a huge economic problem. To create one tonne, it takes $4,000. Since a tonne only sells for a few hundred dollars, plastic bag vendors are not gaining anything by producing them.

Many people are resorting to using paper bags but, are they really better than plastic bags? The answer is that paper and plastic bags have approximately the same advantages and disadvantages. Although paper bags degrade a little faster than plastic ones, they take a lot more space in landfills. This is because paper bags are bulkier than plastic bags. Plastic bags only take up 0.4 per cent of landfills but they pollute more. Paper bags take up 1.0 per cent of landfills but, they pollute the same amount as plastic bags because of their huge amounts.

Search for alternatives
The search for alternatives to plastic bags is continuing. Paper bags are a possible option but they also take their toll on the environment. The use of trees to increase the production of paper products combined with the increased energy that is required to make paper bags will also affect the environment.
Which one should we choose? The answer is neither. The solution lies in using either cloth or canvas bags. This would also help in utilization of discarded cloth and canvas, leading to employment generation in rural areas and help in eradication of poverty.

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