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Let’s adhere to the plastic bag ban

May 12, 2016, 12:55 PM

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has reiterated its call for adherence to the plastic bag ban issued on 1 July 2015.

At a press briefing held on Thursday 5 May 2016, the NEA Director of Inter-Sectoral Services at the National Environment Agency (NEA) reaffirmed the call on adherence to the ban on plastic bag, saying anyone found dealing in plastic bags would face the full force of the law.

This renewed call was necessitated by the recent arrest and prosecution of a defaulter of the law.

Though it may seem to be difficult to come to terms with the ban, the move has a lot of good to our existence as a nation.

This is because the indiscriminate use of plastic bags in the country poses a “serious existentialist threat to the fragile ecosystem of the country, and presents an unwarranted environmental eyesore,” and a lot more harm to us as a people.

The Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NTEPA), an international body on environmental issues, gives a synopsis of the hazards of plastic bag use in a country.

The hazards, it states, include danger to animal life, pacific trash vortex, litter problem, loss of resources, and greenhouse gases.

Danger to animal life, especially when they find their way into the sea:

Plastic bags are quite commonly mistaken for food by animals, especially when the bags carry food residues, are brightly coloured or are animated by the movement of water. A great variety of animals, land and especially marine, can choke to death on bags, experiencing much pain and distress. If swallowed whole, animals may not be able to digest real food and die a slow death from starvation or infection.

Pacific Trash Vortex:

The amount of floating plastics in the world’s oceans is increasing dramatically. The Pacific Trash Vortex is a ‘gyre’ or vortex of marine litter in the North Pacific Ocean. The vortex is characterised by exceptionally high concentrations of suspended plastics, such as plastic bags, bottles, containers and other debris, that have been trapped by currents. It is now estimated to be twice the size of Texas. Its impact on marine ecosystems is catastrophic due to its toxic nature and threat to marine life.

Litter problem:

Plastic bags are a highly visible, ugly component of litter. Local and State Governments around Australia spend more than $200 million per year picking up litter. If plastic bags continue to be used, the number of bags littering the environment will increase over time.

Loss of resources:

Plastic bags are typically used for a short period of time but take hundreds of years to break down in landfill. While plastic bags can be recycled, only a tiny proportion of plastic bags are collected and reprocessed.

Greenhouse gases:

Based on using ten lightweight plastic bags per week over a 2-year period, the greenhouse gas impact has more than three times the greenhouse gas impact of a reusable ‘green bag’.

A lightweight plastic bag consumes about 4.5 times more energy in its manufacture than reusable ‘green bags’.

Remember, however, that to get the full greenhouse gas benefit from a reusable ‘green bag’, it must be reused over 100 times.

Starch-based biodegradable (or ‘compostable’) bags consume less than one-third of the energy to produce as plastic alternatives, but emit marginally more carbon dioxide (CO2 - a greenhouse gas) as they decompose. However, unlike single use plastic bags, biodegradable bags will completely breakdown.

“Environmental pollution is an incurable disease. It can only be prevented”