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Plastic bags are destroying our ecosystems

05/08/2008

By Hunter Wright
   
Plastic bags kill animals, use a ridiculous amount of oil to produce, and are an eyesore for people all over the world.

For years I've gone shopping with my parents. Whenever we went, wherever we went, I would always use a plastic bag to carry whatever I had. Just the other day I was in Burlington and I bought a video game. The cashier offered me a bag. At first I was going to say yes, just like I normally do; then I thought about everything I've been learning in my Civics class here at Harwood. It would have been unnecessary for me to take a bag just to carry the game out to the car, so I said no and felt good about my decision.

Plastic bags have been used for over 25 years in all of our grocery stores, delis, shopping malls and department stores. Scientists and people everywhere are now realizing the effect the plastic bags are having on our environment and our ecosystem.

More than 1 billion plastic bags are thrown away every year. That's nearly 12 million barrels of oil going to waste. Only one to three percent of all the bags used are recycled. More than 1 million birds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed each year from suffocation on plastic bags. Bags are covering 46,000 square miles of our ocean and the area is growing larger every day.
    
Plastic bags may be convenient, but they are definitely not environmentally friendly. Stopping the use of plastic is as simple as using a canvas bag at the grocery store or saying no to a bag when all you have is a gallon of milk. There's no need for so many plastic bags in our world and something must be done about them before it's too late.

Stores like Whole Foods, who banned plastic bags in every store on Earth Day this past month, are making changes. Many countries, like Ireland, now charge people for plastic bags and in the past seven years have reduced plastic bag use by 90 percent by charging 15 cents a plastic bag. Local stores are making a difference too. Both Shaw's in Waterbury and Waitsfield offer reusable canvas bags. Even our locally owned grocery store, Mehuron's Supermarket in Waitsfield, is working closely with students at Harwood Union High School to help reduce this problem even further.
    
There are many things people can do to help. Buying reusable bags is a huge step in reducing the use of plastic bags. People can bring their plastic bags to transfer stations. Transfer stations are helpful because they dispose of the bags properly, but the bags still use a lot of oil to produce, so don't use recycling as an excuse to go through so many plastic bags. Shaw's accepts bags and sends them off to be reused or recycled. Other stores like The Farmers' Market and Bargain Boutique in Waterbury collect bags for reuse.

If you would like more information about this, you can contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or simply Google search "plastic bags and the environment."

Hunter Wright is a student at Harwood Union and lives in Waterbury.
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