“One of the most ubiquitous and long-lasting recent changes to the surface of our planet is the accumulation and fragmentation of plastics.”
Marine Ecologist for the British Antarctic Survey
Plastic has disastrous and accelerating consequences for our global social and ecosphere. Most plastics are made from petroleum or natural gas, which are non-renewable resources extracted and processed using energy-intensive techniques. The extraction and processing of these raw materials have significantly impacted our carbon footprint on the planet—a practice that destroys fragile ecosystems, contributes to climate change, and oppresses vulnerable communities in developing nations.
Not only does the manufacture of plastic take a heavy toll on the environment, even its eventual destruction is detrimental to Earth’s sustainability. Waste management by incineration pollutes air, soil, ground water, oceans and exposes workers and communities surrounding plants to carcinogenic chemicals. Biodegradable plastics can disintegrate in three to six months instead of hundreds of years. Yet during that lifetime, it still can do great harm to ecosystems, especially marine life. Even recyclable plastics require energy-intensive processes that ultimately require more input from our finite natural resources and may even tip the precarious climate balance in favor of runaway greenhouse effect.
The ubiquitous plastic bag contributes to a lot of landfill waste, which contributes not only to soil and ground water contamination but is also polluting our oceans. Plastics have become a municipal waste disaster and local governments all over the globe are starting to implement plastic bag bans. Many conscientious producers and consumers have turned to paper bags as an alternative. However, according to National Geographic news, paper bags consume 40 percent more energy, generate 80 percent more solid waste, produce 70 percent more atmospheric emissions, and release up to 94 percent more waterborne wastes than plastic bags. The only advantage is that paper bags biodegrade faster and is also recyclable.
In light of these facts, the only truly sustainable alternative to plastic and paper bags is durable, reusable, breathable versatile bags that reduce single-use culture.
And, this is why we #TradeUpJunes.
Cathy Chen is a digital strategist and part of the Junes team.
“Are Plastic Bags Sacking the Environment?” National Geographics News Sept 2003
“A Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags” U.K. Government Environment Agency Study Report 2011