Unseen Passage: Effects of Plastic Bags on the Environment

The effects of plastic bags on the environment are really quite devastating. While there are many objections to the banning of plastic bags based solely on their convenience, the damage to the environment needs to be assessed too.

There is no way to strictly limit the effects of plastic bags on the environment because there is no disposal method, that will really help to eliminate the problem. While reusing them is the first step, most people don’t do that. These bags are not durable enough to survive numerous trips to the store. The best a citizen can do is to reuse them.

The biggest problem with this is that once they have been soiled they end up in the trash, which then ends up in the landfill or is burned. Either of these solutions is not good for the environment. Burning emits toxic gases that harm the atmosphere and increase the level of VOCs in the air while landfills hold them indefinitely as a part of the plastic waste problem throughout the globe.

One of the greatest problems is that an estimated 300 million plastic bags end up in the Atlantic Ocean alone. These bags are very dangerous for the sea life, especially for those of the mammal variety. Any hunting mammal can easily mistake the size, shape and texture of the plastic bag for a meal and find its airway cut off. Needless deaths from plastic bags are increasing every year.

The environmental balance of the waterways is being thrown off by the rate of plastic bags finding their way into the mouths and intestinal tracts of sea mammals. As one species begins to die off at an abnormal rate, every other living organism in the waterways is also impacted.

The indefinite period of time that it takes for the average plastic bag to break down can be literally hundreds of years. Every bag that ends up in the woodlands of the country threatens the natural progression of wildlife. Because the breakdown rate is so slow the chances that the bag will harmlessly go away are extremely slim. Throughout the world plastic bags are responsible for the suffocation deaths of woodland animals as well as for inhibiting soil nutrients. The land litter that is made up of plastic bags has the potential to kill over and over again. It has been estimated that one bag has the potential to unintentionally kill one animal every three months due to unintentional digestion or inhalation.

While it’s a noble thought to place the plastic bags in the recycling bin every week, studies have proven that there are very few recycling plants that actually recycle them. Most municipalities either burn them or send them off to the landfill after sorting. This is because it can be expensive to recycle this type of plastic. It doesn’t melt down easily and is often not fit to be reused in its original form.

The premise of recycling these bags is nice. Yet funding for the upgrading of the recycling units just has not happened and thus less than 1% of all bags are sent to recycling plants worldwide. Most are left to become a pollution problem in one way or another.

There are always alternatives to plastic bags and the search for better and more alternatives continues. Paper bags are a possible option, but they also take their toll on the environment. The use of trees to increase the production of paper products will also have a negative environmental effect.

Reusable plastic bags are being introduced to regions that want to outlaw the plastic bags altogether. These are stronger and more durable and can be used for three to five trips to the store. Of course, the reusable cloth bag is fast becoming a favourite among the environmental supporters. While so far no bag is without its issues, these are the bags that are currently recommended for use to help protect environmental concerns.

Q. On the basis of your understanding of the above passage, answer any five of the questions given below by choosing the most appropriate option:

  1. People object to the banning of plastic bags because they are:
    1. durable.
    2. convenient.
    3. easily disposable.
    4. useful.
  2. The environmental balance of the waterways is being thrown off because:
    1. the amount of plastic bags is decreasing the water level.
    2. the breaking rate of these bags is slow.
    3. many species of sea mammals are dying.
    4. there are 300 million plastic bags lying in Atlantic Ocean.
  3. What do most municipalities do to the plastic bags?
    1. Send them off to the landfill.
    2. Recycle them.
    3. Clean and send them for reuse.
    4. Leave them undestroyed.
  4. The best option to replace plastic bags is:
    1. paper bags.
    2. reusable plastic bags.
    3. cloth bags.
    4. all of the above.
  5. What is the first step to solve the problem of plastic waste?
    1. Reuse
    2. Replace
    3. Recycle
    4. All of these
  6. Why are the Paper bags not good alternative of plastic bags?
    1. They are durable.
    2. They can not be recycled.
    3. Trees are cut to make them.
    4. They are reusable.

Answers

  1. convenient.
  2. many species of sea mammals are dying.
  3. Send them off to the landfill.
  4. cloth bags.
  5. Reuse
  6. Trees are cut to make them.

Q. Answer the questions briefly:

  1. Why do the people oppose the banning of plastic?
  2. Why is it not good to burn the plastic?
  3. How are mammals affected by plastic bags?
  4. Why do most municipalities not recycle plastic?
  5. Which are better alternatives to plastic bags?
  6. Find words from the passage which mean the same as the following:
    1. Choking (para 6)
    2. Costly (para 7)

Answers

  1. Most of the people oppose the banning of plastic mainly due to its convenience and durability.
  2. Burning plastic emits toxic gases that harm the atmosphere and increase the level of VOCs in the air while landfills hold them indefinitely.
  3. Mammals mistake the size, shape and texture of the plastic bag for a meal and find its airway cut off. These plastic bags enter the mouths, stomachs and intestinal tracts of sea mammals.
  4. Most municipalities either burn the plastics or send them off to the landfill after sorting. This is because it can be expensive to recycle this type of plastic. It doesn’t melt down easily and is often not fit to be reused in its original form.
  5. Paper bags are a possible option, but they also take their toll on the environment as trees are cut. Reusable bags are stronger and more durable. Another option is the reusable cloth bag.
  6. Words are:
    1. suffocation
    2. expensive

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