From the mid-1980s onwards, plastic bags became common for carrying daily groceries from the store to vehicles and homes throughout the developed world. As plastic bags increasingly replaced paper bags, and as other plastic materials and products replaced glass, metal, stone, timber and other materials, a packaging materials war erupted, with plastic shopping bags at the center of highly publicized disputes. Although few peer-reviewed studies or government surveys have provided estimates for global plastic bag use, environmental activists estimate that between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used each year worldwide.
Plastic has replaced the traditional material (paper/cloth etc) as packing and carry bags because of cost and convenience which is possibly a wrong choice of material for such use. Even though plastic bags can preserve food and can be used for growing vegetables in a controlled environment, their method of disposal has creates unprecedented pollution problem. Plastic has many more uses other than Plastic Bags and Packing material. It is used for manufacturing of protective covers and parts for many machines, which should be the preferred utility for plastic. More than a 100 million tones of plastic is produced world-wide each year.
Though plastics have opened the way for a plethora of new inventions and devices it has also ended up clogging the drains and becoming a health hazard. Many countries, including India, are trying to increase the amount of plastic that is recycled. But commercial interests create hindrance for effective legislation to remove plastics from goods where they can threaten public health. Also there is a clear trend of shipping off the plastic waste of developed countries to under develop and developing countries. India imported 7,841. 8 metric tonnes of plastic waste from the US in the first half of 1994.
India is the fourth highest Asian importer of plastic waste behind Hong Kong, Philippines,Indonesia. Environmental pollution caused by routinely used polythene packaging materials; it would be prudent, for the present, to use eco-friendly paper packaging. The manufacturers of plastic packaging like soft drink bottles/mineral water bottles etc must come forward and develop appropriate methods of disposal/own responsibility for disposal. Plastic bags were found to constitute a significant portion of the floating marine debris in the waters around southern Chile in a study conducted between 2002 and 2005.
If washed out to sea, plastic bags can be carried long distances by ocean currents, and can strangle marine animals or, if ingested, cause them to starve to death.  Numerous deaths among animals such as sea turtles and dolphins have been attributed to the ingestion of plastic marine litter, which includes plastic bags. Littering is often a serious problem in developing countries, where trash collection infrastructure is less developed than in wealthier nations. The relatively limited adoption of modern biodegradable plastic bags means that many older landfills are filled with large, persistent deposits of non-degrading bags.
It is, however, possible that in the future these deposits could be mined and reprocessed to replace dwindling raw material resources. In recent times due to widespread awareness drive by NGOS and government and to lesser extent by educational institutions has resulted in increasing the consciousness among few shopkeepers they have shifted back to the old system of wrapping up goods in paper bags or newspapers, Some people are slowly getting habituated to going to the market with cloth bags.
Besides a few NGOs, even school students have come forward to take up a promotion campaign for the use of paper or cloth bags. Each year, as industry produces more and more nonessential products individually and excessively packaged, we throw away more and more trash. To a large extent, our garbage problem is a result of a corporate ethic that puts profits before people and the environment. Industry is pushing disposability because it pays. Plastic razors can only be used a few times before disposal, then more must be bought, making the plastic and razor industries rich and happy.
Appliances designed to become obsolete guarantee you’ll have to buy new ones next year. Over 84 percent (by weight) of municipal solid waste could be reused, recycled or composted instead of being buried or burned. An exception is plastic, which comprises about 7 percent by weight or 20 percent by volume of municipal solid waste. Due to technical and financial limitations, less than ten percent of plastic is currently “recycled. ” Furthermore, “plastic recycling” only defers the plastic disposal problem, since most plastic items can only be manufactured from virgin plastic.
Recycled polystyrene foam (also known by the brand name Styrofoam) can be used to build marine docks but not to make a new polystyrene foam cup. New plastic will have to be produced from non-renewable oil stocks to make those cups, and eventually all the plastic will have to be disposed of. Last February 21, 2011, the province of Albay, spearheaded by Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda became the first in the Bicol region to ban the use of plastic bags.
Provincial Ordinance No. 011 – 3, which is also known as the “Anti – Plastic” Ordinance of the Province of Albay, prohibits the use of plastic bags on dry goods and regulating the use on wet goods and prohibiting the use of Styrofoam and other synthetic materials harmful to the environment. The ordinance, signed into law by the governor and lauded by the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan is expected to eradicate the use of plastics bag by any means. As cited in Section 2 of the ordinance, the law is for the compliance of all business establishments, groceries, department stores, supermarkets, chain retailers and sari-sari stores in the province.
Likewise, utilization of alternative packaging materials such as woven native bags (bayong), reusable cloth, shopping bags (katsa), paper bags and other similar materials is encouraged. It is also a known fact that many of those plastic bags that shop owners used to pack their merchandise often ended up in streets. The hazards plastic pose for the province are numerous. Albay being a favorite spot of natural disasters is at risk with the threats of excessive use of plastic products. Also, the province gets littered by plastic bag garbage presenting an ugly and unhygienic seen.
The soil fertility deteriorates as plastic bags form part of manure remains on the soil for years. This new ordinance should be taken sincerely because this not only speaks for the lives at stake but for the environment of the next generations as well. Large food chains like McDonald’s, Jollibee and others should start to ban Styrofoam packages among their products. Large supermarkets should take the initiatives and act upon the given law and use alternatives to pack the purchase of their customers.
They should also convince customers to bring their own reusable bags when they go shopping. Educational programs anchored to the ordinance should also be created to be able to grasp the students’ awareness about this law. They should be educated as early as in primary years that they may become fully aware of it. Massive campaigns like door-to-door information drive, barangay seminars and other promotions using quad media will be helpful in the realization of the law. Furthermore, environmental awareness of each individual should be encouraged as well.
Courtney from Study Moose
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