What would happen if plastic bags were banned?

Plastic bags are everywhere in our environment. In fact in our modern lives, they have become part of us. 

However, the convenience of these plastic bags came at a high cost not only to the environment but even more to human health. As a result, several cities globally have started banning the use of plastic bags. A huge majority have even enforced restrictions against the use of plastic bags.

The use of plastic bags is considered one of the biggest reasons why global warming and climate change happened. Fortunately, China has banned the use of plastics, which is a big win for humanity, as it is the biggest contributor to plastic waste. 

Why plastic bags should be banned from our cities

  1. Plastic bags do not only pollute our water but also our land. Because they are naturally lightweight, plastic bags can travel very long distances by both water and wind. The wind blows these plastic bags, trashing the area they end up in. These litters get caught up in between trees, fences, and floats in water bodies thus moving to the world’s oceans.
  1. Plastic bags are made from non-renewable sources and highly contribute to climate change.  The majority of plastic bags are made from polypropylene, a material manufactured from petroleum and natural gas. During production, greenhouse gasses are created, worsening our current problem on climate change.
  1. Plastic bags do not degrade. Petroleum-based plastic bags never degrade. Instead, they break down into small pieces, ending up in the oceans which are then consumed by wildlife. 
  1. Plastic bags are harmful to wildlife and marine life. Birds, animals, and other marine animals including sea turtles often mistake plastic bags and other plastic materials for food. When they consume these plastic materials, their digestive system gets congested which causes health infections and even suffocation. The animals may also become easily entangled inside the plastic.
  1. Plastic bags are harmful to human health. Chemicals from plastic bags can disrupt the normal functioning of hormones in the body. Most plastic fragments in the oceans like plastic bags possess pollutants including PCBs (polycyclic aromatic biphenyl) together with PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) which are hormone-disrupting. Once consumed, these chemicals move through the food web, which eventually enter humans eating fish as well as other marine animals. Once these chemicals enter the human bloodstream, they could develop cancers or other serious conditions.
  1. Plastic bags are not easy to recycle. Plastic bags, although considered recyclable, have to undergo more complex processes to be recycled. Recycling facilities do not even have the capacity to recycle them. This explains why the actual recycling rate for plastic bags is around a measly 5 percent.
  1. Plastic bags tend to last too long.  Because they never completely degrade, plastic bags remain to be among the biggest contributors to plastic pollution and its effects. They most often end up in oceans and landfills.  Recycling them does not change the fact that they will still be dumped into the environment 

Possible effects of banning plastic bags

If the world can unite for the common good of banning plastic bags, we are sure to see a revival of cloth bags and paper bags. There is also a high probability for global warming to be controlled, if not solved at all.

Plastic pollution could finally be addressed, with people becoming more aware of their choices and how they affect the whole world with a single plastic bag. 

Over the years, many countries have adopted their own programs to ban plastic bags. They spread these campaigns as their contribution to help stop climate change. However, not all these campaigns have succeeded. 

While they successfully stopped people from using plastic bags, another problem with the production of paper bags arose. It needed more trees cut and burned down, which was a looming environmental problem on its own.

Common questions about banning plastic bags

How effective are plastic bag bans?

Research shows that plastic bag bans have found a 64% decline on new shopping bag production. This means that because people are forced to reuse what they have, not many plastic bags have to be produced. In an environmental perspective, we reduce the carbon footprint on plastic production compared to when there were no bans on these products.

Are paper bags worse than plastic?

It is a popular yet false belief that paper bags are a better alternative to plastic bags. Paper bags need more energy to produce, which translates to a worse environmental footprint than plastics. Paper bags are also easily broken, unlike plastic bags which can be reused to up to three times.

Can plastic be banned completely?

Yes. It all depends on a country’s commitment to fight global warming and teach its people to live green.

If we are ever to totally ban plastic bags globally, there should be a clear alternative–and paper should not be it. The campaign should focus on replacing plastic bags with reusable cloth bags, instead of the now-famous biodegradable plastic bags, which are still essentially made from plastic.