Plastic bags that we use only once to bring home our shopping: Should we ban them?
Plastic bags take 1,000 years to degrade, so if they aren’t disposed of properly, they make for a lot of litter that hangs around for a very very long time.
As litter, plastic bags can be lethal to animals that swallow them or get tangled up in them. Some estimates are that as many as a hundred thousand marine mammals like dolphins, seals, and whales are killed every year by plastic. A million seabirds might be killed every year.
Another reason for getting rid of plastic bags is – to my surprise – convenience. In our house we have switched to reusable biodegradable bags each of which hold about three times as much as an ordinary plastic shopping bag. It’s much faster to lug the groceries out of the car into the house, and we have less trash. We keep the bags on a hook in the garage and toss them into the car when we go to the supermarket.
A return to paper bags, of course, would be just as bad for the environment as plastic ones, so that’s no solution. Just a different kind of problem.