There are fewer ‘against’ days, and one of these is celebrated on December 19 as International Plastic Bags Day. The date falls at a time when, because of the pre-holiday period, we can freely say that we are overdoing it with shopping, which results in the excessive consumption or use of plastic bags.
A striking fact is that it takes 20 to 1,000 years for one plastic bag to decompose, and since recycling has still not fully taken root, large quantities of bags are disposed of improperly into the environment, on land and at sea. Today, almost 270,000 tons of plastic waste floats in the oceans, killing fish, mammals, turtles and birds. In addition, plastic bags also affect human health. The International Day without Plastic Bags, which is celebrated on July 3 with many activities around the world, is becoming a growing global movement.
The celebration of the International Day for the Fight against Plastic Bags was organized with the aim of educating the public about the harmfulness of plastic bags and calling for their replacement. A tragic fact is that there are 150 million tons of plastic waste in the oceans today, and 4.8 to 12.7 tons of plastic end up in the sea every year. Plastic waste kills marine animals and destroys their habitats, while endangering human health through exposure to plastic in the food chain.
A plastic bag is a type of packaging made of thin, flexible plastic foil, non-woven fabric, etc. Plastic bags usually take up less space than boxes or jars. Depending on their construction, they can be suitable for recycling, but only 1% of plastic bags are recycled, because production is many times cheaper than recycling. Plastic bags can cause suffocation. About 25 children die each year in the United States from suffocation with plastic bags, and 99.2% of them are less than one year old, which has led to warning labels that some bags can pose a danger to young children.
The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the annual global consumption of plastic bags is between 500 billion and one trillion. Their practicality has gradually led to mass production and use around the world. It is estimated that millions of seabirds and mammals die each year from eating plastic bags because they mistake them for food, such as jellyfish. It also applies to marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals. The animals go through the agony of suffocating after ingesting plastic waste, which makes it impossible for them to breathe or for the bags to reach their digestive tract. During the decomposition of polyethylene, from which plastic bags are made, microscopic toxic particles are formed that penetrate the food chain, contaminating ecosystems and, consequently, food and water. Plastic in the soil stops the passage of oxygen and causes soil infertility.
Governments around the world, knowingly or unknowingly, think that plastic bags with a thickness between 15 and 50 micrometers are the world’s greatest environmental problem, and they have banned plastic bags of that size. However, such bags are not the largest source of plastic that is released into the environment, either in terms of content in all waste, in which plastic is not disposed of, or used plastic products. Annually, they account for 10% of global production of polyethylene, or 4.4 percent of global production of plastics, which can be mechanically used, recycled or incinerated with large amounts of heat and, at the same time, can generate more energy per kilogram than coal.