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Curse of the Plastic Bag

12th October 2011

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Shopping is central to our lives, be it the indulgent shopping sprees  after we discover a spare bit of student loan or the tiresome weekly trek to the supermarket to stock up on food. Upon approaching the checkout, you will have been asked one specific question: “Do you need a bag?”

A few years ago, this wasn’t a typical aspect of shopping. Once we got to the till, there would be countless plastic bags laid out for us to take as many as we desired. These days it is a different story. Many shops require us to decide whether we need a bag or not, with others charging us a small amount per bag. Furthermore, some places do not provide any plastic bags at all.

This is all due to a greater awareness of the environmental impacts that plastic bags have on our wildlife. Not only is our landscape littered with bags, hooked onto the branches of trees and hedges, but the bags are directly affecting the animals too. Birds, who use strips of torn bags to make their nests more attractive, can easily be strangled or digest the plastic. Bags that drift into the oceans can be eaten by turtles and fish who mistake the plastic for jellyfish and other food sources. Many dead marine creatures that have been washed up on beaches have been discovered to have several plastic bags in their stomachs. This causes the animals to starve, be poisoned or suffer an agonising death.

Scientists believe that it may take between four hundred and one thousand years before a plastic bag will have decayed. This means that the bags that we use for only a few moments will remain in the environment for countless generations to come. What’s worse is the fact that Britain’s seas are some of the most polluted in the world, with the pollution threatening our own wildlife and aesthetics. The clichéd opening lines of Katy Perry’s 2010 hit Firework spring to mind:  ‘Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?’

Here are some bag beating tips:

-          Take your old plastic bags shopping with you again to reuse them. Many supermarkets reward you for doing this

-          Use fewer bags by filling each one up as much as possible

-          Use old bags as bin liners or for storage purposes. Make the bag have a functional purpose to extend its use for as long as possible

-          Invest in some “Bags for Life,” – reusable, durable bags that are stronger and last for much longer

-          Some recycling points have bins specifically for the bags so that they can be reused

-          Lastly, there are many campaigns you can join and sponsor, such as the Daily Mail’s Banish the Bags campaign.

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