Plastic bags are harmful to the environment because they litter the landscape including our parks, streets, and waterways; they kill animals when they end up in our water and species such as dolphins and whales ingest them die; and they are non-biodegradable.
To begin with, plastic bags are not biodegradable, and Americans throw away almost 100 billion plastic bags a year–only 1-3% of plastic bags used ever makes it to recycling. Because they are not biodegradable, they clog waterways, choke small rodents, birds, and sea life that mistake them for food, or sit for thousands of years in landfills until they finally dissolve into the soil–but even their breaking down into smaller particles doesn’t stop them from polluting the soil and water. The actual production of plastic bags requires millions of gallons of petroleum, which damages the environment when extracted.
Plastics bags can take 500 years or longer to break down in a landfill. Plastic bags are recyclable and waste valuable landfill space that should be used for materials that currently aren’t recyclable. With a growing global population, landfill space should be minimized so we have more land for homes, natural spaces, businesses, etc. In addition, the U.S. uses over 12 million gallons of oil a year producing plastic bags. When energy independence is a concern, using that much oil on plastic bags is irresponsible.
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