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Plastic Bags and Their Environmental Impact

Views: 0     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2023-02-09      Origin: Site

Plastic bags are a popular form of packaging for a wide variety of goods. They are made from a range of materials and come in different sizes, designs, and colors. Some bags are designed for longer term use or have special features such as gussets, easy-opening options, or reclosable handles.

The plastic bags that we get at the checkout lane are one part of an industry that generates more than 1 trillion pounds of packaging each year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. That number includes shopping and grocery bags, as well as all kinds of other trashy items, such as coffee cups, food containers, and other items.

Bags are typically composed of polyethylene (PE), a common type of ethylene-based plastic, although other materials, such as polylactide and polyamide, also are used in some bags. Regardless of the type of plastic, most packaging products start their lives as a byproduct of fossil fuel production, including natural gas.

Life cycle analysis, or LCA, is a scientific process that calculates the environmental impact of all stages in the production and consumption of a product. It considers the raw material used, the energy consumed during manufacturing and processing, the amount of waste generated in the production and distribution phases, as well as the final disposal methods.

Most LCA studies have found that plastic bags have a lower overall environmental impact than paper or reusable bags, unless they are used repeatedly. Nevertheless, plastics still cause significant problems such as littering and the use of fossil fuels for their production and distribution.

Many cities and states around the world have bans or fees on single-use bags as a way of reducing their environmental impact. These include Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Boulder, CO, Montgomery County, MD, and Washington, DC.

Aside from bans and fees, some cities and states have laws in place to encourage or require their citizens to reuse or recycle plastics. Some of these laws are based on environmental concerns and others on economics.

These laws can be found in several countries, including Germany, Denmark, France, Ireland, England, Sweden, Spain, and the United Kingdom. They vary by city and state, but often require consumers to pay a fee or make an effort to reuse or recycle their bags.

Another approach is to replace plastic bags with biodegradable alternatives that are made from starch or other plant-based materials. These can be molded into shape or made into bags in a chemical process that breaks them down over time, though they tend to be more expensive.

Some activists are pushing for bans or charges on all single-use plastics, arguing that they are the root of the problem and should be banned altogether. These groups often claim that the bags are a major cause of urban pollution, especially when they end up in waterways or the ocean.

These opponents have a point, but the fact is that plastic bags are not the only issue. Activists are looking to make changes in other industries as well, such as the foam that is used in chairs and tables and the plastic cutlery that is used for meals. In order to solve the problem, they must find a way to make all types of products more environmentally friendly.



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