Is it true that plastic bags are bad for the environment?

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The debate about plastic bags has raged for a long time, with business players rallying support for the commodity and conservationists pushing for its abolition and complete halt of manufacturing. The point of contention is whether plastic bags are toxic to the atmosphere and, if not, what can be done to mitigate the negative consequences. Plastic bags, in my opinion, are also toxic to the atmosphere, owing to their photodegradable nature, which means they never dissolve but only degrade into long-lasting plastic dust. This poses a challenge for there has not been an effective way designed yet to dispose of plastic bags with no negative effect on the environment. This paper seeks for proving why plastic bags are harmful to the environment.

The Effects of Plastic Bags on Land

It takes an indefinite period of time for plastic bags to break down and even when they do, they may take hundreds of years (Rochman et al. 170). This is quite dangerous as when the plastic bags finally break down; they release harmful chemicals into the soil. Further, the land litter of plastic bags has the potential to kill the ecosystem as more and more wild animals die from the ingestion of the plastic bags. The inhalation or unintentional digestion of just one plastic bag has been estimated to result in the death of one animal every three months, and considering the actual number of littered plastic bags, the total impact on the ecosystem is quite devastating. The sad part of the production of plastic bags is they use up the valuable resource of oil which is estimated to be completely exhausted in the very near future. Many activists observe the value of plastic bags compared to the use of oil in its production as a waste of resources.

Plastic Bags Effects on Water Bodies

More and more plastic bags are finding their way into water bodies with detrimental effects (Andrady 65). The most common victim is the porpoise, which consumes jellyfish and mistakes the plastic bag for food with disastrous consequences. If the porpoise does not die of chocking, then the ingestion of the plastic bag leads to intestinal blockage and inevitably death. Birds that depend on water bodies for their existence are also affected in that they mistake the plastic bags for nesting materials or fish and end up with their heads or legs entangled which can be fatal (Vegter et al. 230).

Another challenge posed by plastic bags is that even when the plastic degrades into smaller pieces, they are consumed by small aquatic life making its way to the food chain that may end up being consumed by humans. A case example of plastic bags endangering aquatic life would be the platypus, which was rescued from the Don River in Tasmania after being wrapped up in plastic bag, which cut deep into its skin. In fact, if it were not for the animal overcoming the shyness attributed with the species and approaching a person for assistance, the consequences would have been disastrous.

Platypus entwined in plastic (Animal Friends Croatia)

The Effects of Plastic Bags on the Air

The notion that burning of plastic bags will get rid of plastic bags is a misconception that should be done away with, as the dangers to the environment are catastrophic (Manriquez et al. 170). Plastic bags being oil based product when burnt produces a highly toxic chemical known as dioxin. Dioxin has been known to bring about several hazardous effects to our health such as: affecting both the reproduction and immune systems, the interference of the endocrine gland system that is responsible for the production of hormones and there even have been links of it as a causative agent of cancer.

Further, plastic bags contaminated by harmful substances such as pesticides upon their burning will release harmful chemicals to the atmosphere. Plastic bags production releases copious amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is hazardous to the environment. The gradual increase of carbon dioxide has then led to the trapping of heat in the planet thereby warming the planet with disastrous consequences as ocean levels are ever raising with the melting of both the North and South Pole. Therefore, increase in carbon dioxide levels have led to the acidity of our oceans by an increase of about 30% that leads to the death of some aquatic animals.


To sum up, plastic bags are harmful to the environment and the danger they pose is that an effective way of dealing with the menace has not yet been discovered. The approach of recycling plastic bags is a good idea but the challenge is that it is seen as to costly as the process takes up too much energy. The use of landfills is not a reliable solution and furthermore, the cost of cleanup of the plastic bags is a costly endeavor. The fact that plastic bags have been proved harmful to the environment with no clear way of getting rid of them brings about the notion if their production should not be halted altogether. There are alternative materials that can replace the plastic bag and as their disadvantages far outweigh their benefits, it is about time that we put plastic bag production on the halt.

Works Cited

Andrady, Anthony L. Persistence of Plastic Litter in the Oceans. In Melanie Bergmann, Lars Gutow, & Michael Klages. Marine Anthropogenic Litter. Springer International Publishing, 2015, pp. 57-72, Accessed 2 Jun., 2015.

Animal Friends Croatia. “How Plastic Bags Affects Wildlife”. Animal friends Croatia, 2017, Accessed 26 Jun., 2017.

Manríquez, Patricio H., Jara, Maria E., Mardones, Maria L., Torres, Rodrigo, Navarro, Jorge M., Lardies, Marco A., Vargas, Christian A., Duarte, Christian, & Lagos, Nelson A. “Ocean Acidification Affects Predator Avoidance Behavior but not Prey Detection in the Early Ontogeny of a Keystone Species”. (Marine Ecology Progress Series), no. 502, 2014, pp. 157-167, Accessed 12 Apr., 2014.

Rochman, Chelsea M., Browne, Mark A., Halpern, Benjamin S., Hentschel, Brian T., Hoh Eunha, Karapanagioti, Hrissi K., Rios-Mendoza, Lorena M., Takada, Hideshige, The, Swee, & Thompson, Richard C. “Policy : Classify Plastic Waste as Hazardous”. (Nature), no. 494(7436), 2013, pp. 169-171, Accessed 14 Feb., 2013.

Vegter, Amanda C., et al. “Global Research Priorities to Mitigate Plastic Pollution Impacts on Marine Wildlife”. (Endangered Species Research), no. 25(3), 2014, pp. 225-247, Accessed 17 Oct., 2014.

November 23, 2022
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