how can we contribute to a world free of plastic bags?

July 3 has been declared the International Plastic Bag Free Day. The goal is to reduce single-use bags and encourage their responsible consumption. In our daily lives, these objects have become common use, but they are extremely harmful to the environment.


Why are plastic bags harmful?

Plastic bags take more than 500 years to decompose. And they do it by releasing hundreds of thousands of tiny fragments of microplastics, along with all the additives and toxins they may carry. Instead, its use is about 12 minutes on average.


It’s estimated that each person spends an average of 230 plastic bags per year, which represents more than 500 billion plastic bags in the world. As they are not recyclable, these objects remain on the planet, harming all living beings.


About 12 million tons of plastics reach the oceans each year. These residues pose a serious threat to marine species. One in six fish sold at fish shops contains microplastics in their stomachs. Plastic has already entered the food chain.


The scientific studies are compelling and worrying. There are so many microplastics derived from single-use plastics on the planet that they no longer only spread through rivers and seas but through the atmosphere: plastic rains all over the world.


Added to this situation is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been used by the plastic industry, packers and supermarkets to promote the purchase of products in disposable containers. Consequently, the consumption of plastic has increased again. However, this has been dismantled by more than 100 experts who, at the request of Greenpeace, have signed a statement explaining that reusable packaging is safer than single-use packaging.


The commitment depends on everyone


Leaving the planet free of plastic bags requires the involvement of all sectors of society, from governments to the final consumer.


Some countries, such as France and Italy, have already banned the production of plastic bags and have significantly reduced their consumption. On the other hand, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Sweden have chosen to apply taxes on the use of bags, while in Finland or Germany the establishments have taken voluntary agreements.


How can consumers contribute?

Many times we don’t realize how many plastic bags we consume when we go shopping. Let’s consider that this is only one option to transport the products and that there are much cleaner and more careful alternatives with the planet.


1. Never leave your house without a foldable cloth bag. Cloth bags take up very little space and are easy to transport. You never know when we will have to make an unexpected purchase.


2. If you don’t have a reusable bag and you are offered a plastic bag at the grocery store or the supermarket, think about whether you really need it. Maybe what you bought can fit in your purse or backpack. Or you can carry it in your hand.


3. Reuse the plastic bags you have at home. As much as we want to reduce the bags, from time to time they come into our possession, for example when we order food. Instead of throwing away those bags, we can reuse them for minor purchases or as garbage bags.


4. Remember that paper bags and biodegradable ones are not the solution, as they are still disposable objects. The best solution is the use of reusable bags.


By: Juan Carlos Ugarelli

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