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What is a Plastic Bag?
Plastic bags can be said the most abundantly used substance in the whole world.
In our day to day life, we use plastic bags to carry so many things for example, we use plastic bags for packaging fruits, vegetables, clothes, books, etc.
Every other object is carried using a plastic bag or any packaging substance made of plastic.
The invention of a plastic bag is a boon to the human beings and has made us dependent on it as there is no other alternative to the use of plastic bag.
The first proper plastic bag was invented or put forth by “Thulin” in around 1960.
The most commonly used plastic bag is a Polythene. It is basically a synthetic product that is it was made in the laboratory.
It was basically made to replace the traditional paper bags which used to tear under high pressure, etc.
Polythene is a polymer that is a very complex compound which formed due to a long chain of monomers that is the primary compound.
For example, the monomer ethylene is used for the production of the polythene polymer.
This ethylene molecule will bind to several other ethylene molecules in a single long chain or a branched long chain and form the complex polymer called Polythene or also known as polyethylene.
There are different types of polythene like High Density Polythene (HDPE), Low Density Polythene (LDPE), etc. but the most commonly used is Polythene and is seen as our daily plastic bags.
Uses of Plastic Bag
Plastic has many day to day uses, and they have completely replaced the traditional products which involved the use of paper, metal and some other substances.
When these plastic bags were introduced in the market they attracted the people mostly because they were cheap i.e. very inexpensive and very light in weight.
They have many medicinal uses also as they prevent any and all types of contamination and also prevents leakage of any chemical.
They are used for packaging materials ranging from edible chips to big metallic containers.
Plastic is also used to make plastic boxes or containers to store food and water. Plastic is used to cover any object or substance from dust particle that is to avoid the dust particles from settling on any object.
Other than the HDPE and LDPE type of polythene, there are other types of polythene specifically designed for its use in the electrical or metallic substances, etc.
For example, the big pipes which are use for transportation of water under the surface of earth are also made of polythene (HDPE is used).
Such is the use of plastic that in today’s date we find more amount of plastic in our environment than many trees or plants.
The uses of plastic bags are very great but the disadvantages or limitations of plastic bags are many.
Plastic bags are non-biodegradable that is does not decompose naturally and is very stable. It will stay or accumulate in the place where it was dumped. Therefore, it has such disastrous effects.
Plastic is made from ethylene which is renewable or organic compound which has an importance in plant biology.
But it’s polymer is a non-biodegradable compound and no such health-related importance to humans as well as plants.
Disadvantages of Plastic Bags
Plastic bags have a wide range of advantages but the list of disadvantages that it has is somewhat never ending. This is due to the sole fact that plastic is non-biodegradable.
If you dump plastic in a small portion of soil then even a certain period of time, the plastic would remain unchanged in the soil.
This means that it does not get absorbed into the soil or also decompose in the presence of the microorganisms which are present in the soil.
This leads to accumulation of plastic in the environment thus, causing plastic pollution.
We use plastic bags then after their use is over we put it in the dust bin. This plastic waste is not treated and therefore, dumped into the forest, oceans or also buried into the soil without any treatment.
This just leads to accumulation of the plastic.
The garbage bag itself is made of plastic which again contributes to plastic pollution.
Also, plastic takes more than 1000 years to degrade that also by breaking down into smaller toxic substances and not into ethylene which is biologically useful.
The plastic waste which is dumped into the oceans affects the aquatic life at a very large scale. The fishes living in the ocean cannot breathe as low-density plastic floats on water.
This floating of the plastic might block or would not allow the fishes to breathe (i.e. access to oxygen).
Even if they come to the surface a foreign substance like plastic is a hindrance in their ecological cycle as they misunderstand plastic to being food (prey fishes like jellyfish) and consume it.
It is commonly heard that sea turtles ingest such plastic bags or balloons which ultimately lead to their death.
Therefore, plastic pollution is also considered as a threat to the aquatic life and also a possible reason in reduction of the number of certain species of turtles.
Plastic is also dumped or buried in the soil. As we learnt above, that plastic degrades very slowly that is it takes 1000 of years to degrade.
But the degradation is also too poisonous to the environment as plastic breaks down into toxic components which are definitely deadly to the plants growing in that soil.
The consumption of plastic by the animals can choke them and cause a painful death. Also, the accumulation of plastic in soil degrades its nutritional quality.
This also affects the plants and trees which grow in the soil.
Most of the times it is considered that burning of plastic can decompose it but this is not the case.
The burning of plastic bags causes it to melt and generate harmful toxins in gaseous forms which if inhaled can cause suffocation or also accumulation of these toxins in the body.
If we check the Statistical data about the use of plastic only in India, then also it is more than 15 thousand tons. We should also note that India contributes only 11% of the whole world’s plastic waste.
This explains that even if India’s plastic consumption is not more still we see plastic pollution and presence of plastic in our surrounding.
Due to the increasing knowledge of the threat by plastic to the environment, it is now banned in most of the countries and also an alternative for plastic is being developed.
The techniques which have been already developed for plastic degradation are expensive and can degrade only a certain amount of plastic at a time, but we have trillions of plastic bags to be decomposed.
This has become a burning issue as plastic will bring death to the life on earth if not curbed now itself.
Therefore, not just forcefully banning plastic bags but also willingly avoiding the use of plastic and find an alternative to store and carry the products should be done.
Feature Image Credit: Flickr