Plastic bags are not biodegradable. They fly off trash piles, garbage trucks, and landfills, and then clog storm-water infrastructure, float down waterways, and spoil the landscape. If all goes well, they end up in proper landfills where they may take 1,000 years or more to break down into ever smaller particles that continue to pollute the soil and water.
Birds and Marine Mammals Mistake Them for Food
Plastic bags also pose a serious danger to birds and marine mammals that often mistake them for food.
Turtles have been especially affected by plastic bags in the ocean. Turtles have been known to confuse plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them unknowingly. Over half of the world’s sea turtles ingest plastic in their lifetime. Thousands of animals die each year after swallowing or choking on discarded plastic bags. This mistaken identity issue is apparently a problem even for camels in the Middle East!
Sunlight and Ever Smaller Pieces
Plastic bags exposed to sunlight for long enough do undergo physical breakdown. Ultra-violet rays turn the plastic brittle, breaking it into ever smaller pieces. The small fragments then mix with soil, lake sediments, are picked up by streams, or end up contributing to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and other oceanic trash deposits.
Plastic bags are harmful to human health
There are some chemicals from the plastic bags which can disrupt the normal functioning of hormones in the body. Most plastic fragments in the oceans like plastic bags have some pollutants such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) together with PAHs (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) which are hormone disrupting. Once the marine animals consume these chemicals, they move through the food web then later into the humans who consume fish together with other marine animals. The chemical materials bio-accumulates in the sea animals and fish system as they are exposed to them in the ocean waters. When the humans prepare them they consume all these chemicals affecting their healths. They could develop cancers or other serious conditions.
Plastic bags do not only pollute our water but also our land
Plastic bags are usually lightweight and as such, they can travel very long distances by either water or wind. Wind blows these plastic bags and trashes a whole area. These litters gets caught up in between trees, fences and floats in water bodies thus moving to the world’s oceans.
The plastic bags are made from non-renewable sources and on this account, highly contribute to climate change
Most of plastic is made of polypropylene which is a material manufactured from petroleum and natural gas. All of the materials are non-renewable fossil fuel-based materials and through their extraction and even production, greenhouse gases are created which further contribute to global climate change.
Plastic bags do not degrade
Different kinds of plastic can degrade at different times, but the average time for a plastic bags to completely degrade is at least 450 years. It can even take some bags 1000 years to degrade!
Switch to biodegradable bags
Biodegradable plastics use alternate materials or specialized enzymatic or chemical reactions to break down the material quickly once exposed to the elements. This technology offers a number of advantages over traditional plastic materials. Bioplastics come from natural sources, including crops like corn and switchgrass.
After plastics are formed, the traditional products will hold their carbon. When you dispose of them and they begin to decompose in some way, then that gas is released into the atmosphere. Because biodegradable plastics do not always require CO2 as part of the manufacturing process, then this greenhouse gas release may never occur during the decomposition process. When they begin to break down in the environment, bacteria in the soil begin to consume the components. That leaves us with less waste to manage over all, reducing the potential for pollution in every biome.
Bioplastics are generally compostable, which means they will decay into natural materials that will eventually blend harmlessly into the soil. Some of these biodegradable items can break down in a measurement timed in weeks instead of months or years. When the cornstarch molecules encounter water, then they slowly absorb it, swelling up to break the item into smaller pieces. Then the natural bacteria in the composting container digest it to produce something that can benefit the planet later on. You must pay attention to the quality and labeling of the bioplastic items upon purchase to ensure that you are using items that can decompose rapidly.