Did you know that one million plastic bags are used every minute? If you did not, unfortunately you are not alone. Multiply that by hours, days, and years and it is difficult to conceptualize what this world actually looks like with billions of plastic bags each year in landfill or somewhere else. What if I said that on average those one million bags used per minute were only used to carry items for about twelve minutes. Even more so, these one-use plastic bags that are only used for twelve minutes take over 500 years to break down to microscopic pieces that are still not safe for the environment.
According to Factory Direct, single-use plastic shopping bags first became available in the U.S. in 1979. In 1982, two of the largest grocery store chains in the country, Safeway and Kroger, began offering single-use plastic bags to their customers. However, at this point, plastic bags were still not catching on in every place.
All that changed in 1985, when a speaker at a convention for the Society of Plastic Engineers, spoke about how inexpensive single-use plastic bags were compared to paper bags. Single-use plastic bags almost immediately began showing up at grocery stores all over the United States.
Within a few short decades, convenience and low price made single use plastic a household staple. For a number of years, no one looked at the possible negative impact of this plastic on our natural environment and our health.
Single use plastic, otherwise known as high density polyethylene is a byproduct of oil refining. What this really means – plastic is not a naturally derived substance and common knowledge of plastic disposal is severely limited. Plastic cannot be properly disposed of because plastic has nowhere to go. Around 90.5 percent of all plastic is not recycled, it slowly sits in landfills, oceans, and streets being broken down by the sun’s heat. Plastic pieces disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces until they are known as microplastics. These microplastic particles then find their way into our water system and food sources.
Animals suffer when they constantly ingest plastic particles to the point where it is causing mass extinction in many aquatic species. Much of the aquatic animals consumed by humans are riddled with microplastic particles, in almost every part of the world, potentially leading to compromised immune systems and reproduction. Humans do not directly have to ingest microplastic from the fish they eat. It rather happens that the fish you are ingesting has already absorbed the plastic into its flesh and bloodstream tainted with Bisphenol A or BPA. BPA is a hormone disruptor that is the main cause of plastic related health problems. The environment functions in a cyclical pattern and every part of the cycle is deeply affected by the overuse and improper disposal of plastic.
Why Plastic Bag Free Day?
Today, July 3rd, is recognized as national plastic bag free day. It is a day to step out of the zone of ease and unconscious usage of plastic that we have fallen into. This day was created to raise awareness throughout the globe of the detrimental behavior our plastic use has on the environment. This day was not enacted to scold people for using plastic, for better or worse, it is a part of our lives and we have grown accustomed to the every day convenience plastic has added to our lives. Instead, it is a day to teach one another how to protect our Earth because of plastic’s toxic effects.
Plastic bag free day is a day to consciously try not to use single use plastic bags. It is more importantly a day to become a more active member of society, to learn new knowledge to make more conscious decisions in the future for the future. New found knowledge on how to conserve our place of living is not meant to be utilized on just this one day, Plastic bag free day is a worldwide movement that is remembered every third of July to promote a new year of progression.
More and more towns, cities, states, and countries are enacting policies to counteract the heavy pollution plastic has on all life. It is a large task for a policy to be put in place and to make it successful every individual is a part of the conservation of our environment. So Plastic Bag Free Day is important for stopping such intense use of single use plastic bags but it is more symbolic. It is promoted to change behaviors to instill permanent shifts ultimately to make you think how you can make Plastic Bag Free Day everyday?
What can you do moving forward?
I encourage you to make a pact for the next week to not use plastic bags and if you have to always take the time to recycle properly. If you can do it for the day and maybe the next week you can slowly but easily add it to your daily routine and soon it will be second nature. Spread this day to your friends of your newfound knowledge. Make sure to offer positive criticism to a person not recycling properly. Not to lecture someone but to think about humanity as a whole and the individual actions that lead to weakening our ecosystems. That person might not know correct recycling habits and you might have just committed a generous act for the future.
Don’t brush it off that you forgot your reusable shopping bags in the car instead make a pact with yourself to walk back to your car or house instead of succumbing to convenience. Every unused bag makes a gravitational impact on our future. When recycling, always look at labels on the item you are planning on recycling. Making sure it goes in the direct waste basket and if it cannot be recycled try buying a different product in the future – change lies within buying power, support companies who are progressive in their actions.
An anonymous person once said “do something today so that the future can thank you”. By consciously telling a cashier or bagger you do not need a bag you are making great progress to your society and for the future. Every conscious action is a step in the right direction. By reading this you have already made your first step.
If you would like more information on Place Bag Free Day head to bit.ly/NoMorePlastic1.