Plastic Bags are everywhere, and we all use them daily. There is no denying the fact that we all depend on plastic in one way or the other. Plastic Bags are one of the most common and used Plastic product and are used by a majority of people in one way or the other. However, does the thought of Plastic Bag Recycling ever cross people’s minds? What are the issues surrounding the use of Plastic Bags? How is Plastic Bag Recycling done? And why should you care about it?
The Environmental issues of Plastic Bags
The process of making plastic was discovered in the early 1900s and gradually the process to make Plastic Bags was also discovered. Plastic Bags were invented in the 1960s, and within 60 years, they had become a mainstay in all aspects of life. Due to the excessive use of Plastic Bags, they gradually became an environmental hazard as they were carelessly disposed of which polluted both the land and water bodies. Let us take a look at some of the environmental issues of Plastic Bags.
- Increase in Greenhouse Gases: The primary ingredient of Plastic Bags is Petroleum which is a fossil fuel. The initial stage of extracting, refining and shaping also use up a lot of energy which is powered by fossil fuels. At the same time, Plastic Bags are manufactured by burning petroleum. The burning of fossil fuels thus creates greenhouse gases which in turn causes the greenhouse effect. This effect leads to an increase in the earth’s temperature, which will have a lot of negative impacts on the earth as a whole.
- Pollution of the Water bodies: One of the significant environmental issues caused by Plastic Bags is the Pollution of Water Bodies. It is estimated that more than 13 tonnes of Plastic are washed into water bodies annually. Many marine animals such as fishes, turtles and even some birds consume plastic which eventually leads to their death. This has an adverse impact on the ecosystem leading to the loss of species and habitat.
- Pollution of Land: Plastic Bags have also become a considerable nuisance on lands as well. They are found lying almost everywhere littering many areas. Plastic Bags also get accumulated on the drains, canals and other water channels which causes clogging, thus leading to floods. Though some may be disposed of in landfills yet they take a lot of time to decompose, thus taking up a lot of space.
- Effects on flora and fauna: Plastic Bags have contributed to the loss of flora and fauna too. There are some animals which consume plastic bags, leading to issues in their digestive systems. Some animals also suffocate themselves on these plastic bags leading to death. Plants are also not exempted as the breakdown of plastic produces harmful chemicals leading to poisoning.
These are some of the environmental issues that are caused by the usage of Plastic Bags, and they should be of concern to all.
The Facts and Figures surrounding the usage of Plastic Bags
Plastic Bags have become a global, and it is no secret that it is being used daily by billions of people across the globe. Let us take a look at some of the statistics surrounding Plastic Bags.
- More than 500 Billion Plastic Bags are used in a year.
- The United States alone consumes 380 Billion Plastic Bags each year.
- Only 1 in 200 Plastic Bags is recycled after use.
- The United States goes through a hundred billion plastic bags only for shopping.
- Plastic Bags are now found in almost all parts of the world including even the remotest regions.
- Nine out of Ten Grocery Bags in the United States is made from Plastic.
- 1500 Plastic Bags find their way to an average American home in a year.
- 10% of the Plastic Bags in the world ends up in the Oceans.
Why should we recycle plastic bags?
As is seen from above, the negative impacts of plastic bags are plenty, and they have caused untold damage to our environment. As such recycling them is one of the best ways to try to minimize their negative impact. Let us look at why we should recycle them.
- Recycling Plastic Bags greatly reduces the consumption of petroleum, as they are manufactured using petroleum. It is found that recycling a ton of plastic bag saves 16 barrels of crude oil.
- Greenhouse gas emissions are greatly reduced when we recycle plastic bags. This is because the burning of petroleum is reduced when they are recycled. At the same time, a good amount of energy is saved as well.
- Pollution is also decreased when plastic bags are recycled. Reusing and Recycling Plastic bags greatly decrease the amount of plastic bags that are discarded, thus saving water and land bodies from plastic pollution.
- Recycling Plastic Bags also decrease the cases of animals, birds and marine life from coming into contact with them. This will greatly reduce the chances of any hazards or deaths that can plague flora and fauna.
The above are some of the main reasons why we should recycle Plastic bags, and besides these, there are many other unforeseeable benefits as well.
How is Plastic Bag Recycling done?
The process of recycling plastic bags is composed of a number of steps, and they are as follows.
- Collection: The first step involves collecting plastic bags, and they may be collected from collection spots, waste bins and from any area where plastic bags have been discarded. They are then moved to a recycling facility.
- Sorting: In this step, the plastic bags are sorted with the help of a machine. The machine sorts them out based on different parameters such as the color, the type, manufacturing process etc.
- Washing: After Sorting, the plastic bags are washed using running water, and this is done to clean them from any impurities or debris. The presence of impurities may lead to inferior products.
- Resizing: This process involves shredding, and mincing the plastic bags into small particles, which makes it easy to work with them. Magnets and metal detectors are also employed during this process to remove any remaining debris.
- Compounding: Compounding involves smashing and melting the small plastic particles into small plastic pellets. These plastic pellets are collected and then shipped to various factories or plants which use them to produce other plastic products.
Recycling thus ensures that no part of the plastic goes to waste, and as such is a process which should be encouraged and practiced by all.
What can be done with the output of recycling plastic bags?
There are numerous things which can be done with the finished product that comes out after recycling plastic bags. Some of the most common things that can be made from the output of recycling plastic bags are as follows.
- Bottles and Containers: The most common item that can be made using recycled plastic bags is plastic bottles and containers. They are generally lightweight and durable and are used for storing shampoos, detergents, cleaners and other liquids.
- Packing Foams: Another good use for recycled plastic bags is in the manufacturing of packing foams known as Styrofoam. These foams are used for packing fragile equipment, for insulation and a host of other activities.
- Kitchenware: Another important use for Recycled plastic bags is in the manufacturing of Kitchenware such as cups, plates, chopping boards and other utensils. Kitchenware made from recycled plastic tend to be more durable and strong.
- Clothing: With advancement in technology, now recycled plastics can also be used for manufacturing clothes too. This is done by using plastic fibre extracted from recycled plastic bags.
From the above products, it is quite evident that Recycled Plastic Bags have a lot of use and application. Therefore, it is highly advisable to recycle plastic bags and encourage others to do so as well. We are responsible for the world we live in as such let us start by practising and promoting Plastic Bag Recycling.