If you have ever come in for a tour of the American Recycling Center then you have heard us discuss how problematic plastic bags and films are for Single Stream recycling processors as well as how there is virtually no public awareness of how they should be properly disposed of.
But the problems caused by bags extend much further than just the recycling center.
Today’s newsletter is part one of a multipart series to supplement our recently launched social media campaign #PlasticBagProblems. Each of these articles will focus on one of the biggest problems bags can cause and how you can do your part to prevent them. For supplementary info on this topic, check out our social media campaign of the same name-#PlasticBagProblems by following us on Twitter @AmDisposal.
How Does it Happen?
Likely one of the most disturbing #PlasticBagProblems is the effect improperly disposed bags have on marine life. Although litter found on dry land (to include plastic bags) has a negative impact on wildlife in general, today we want to focus on the effect bags have on sea creatures.
Plastic bags are one of the most common garbage items on beaches. They start out as litter on the beach; streets and even surrounding areas and are quickly swept up in storm water runoff, leading to secondary waterways, and eventually ending up in the ocean.
It’s Killing Sea Creatures
Sea creatures often confuse the bags for food; a great example is the sea turtle. Plastic bags floating underwater look like jellyfish, sea turtles eat jellyfish, which means sea turtles are regularly eating plastic bags by mistake. In fact a study done by the EPA showed that more that 50% of dead turtles have plastic bags in their stomachs. The bags block their digestive tracks and the buoyancy forces them to float, making it impossible for them to dive for food-they therefore starve to death.
Sea turtles are definitely not the only sea creatures eating plastic bags either-it has been estimated that nearly all marine life has directly or inadvertently ingested plastic and a study from Against Waste estimates that plastic marine debris kills over 100,000 turtles and mammals every year.
But it effects US too…
The problem with that goes even further since the chemicals in plastic can cause excess estrogen in animals, which has been shown to lead to mutations such as male fish with female sex organs. Not to mention the plastic stays in their stomachs (if it doesn’t cause their death, like the above-mentioned creatures) which means that when these fish or other creatures like crabs and lobsters, are caught for human consumption, we are ingesting those same chemicals their bodies have absorbed.
How can YOU help?
So, how can you do your part to cut down on the amount of bags that end up in the ocean, killing turtles and poisoning us from inside the very food we eat?
Well the first thing to remember is to dispose of (aka: recycle) your bags correctly by taking them to the grocery store.
Most grocery stores (as well as Wal-Mart and Target) have the plastic bag and films bins in the front of the store. It is in those bins that plastic bags can be properly recycled. When plastic bags are properly recycled it guarantees they are kept out of our waterways since they are being used to make new goods, such as decking, like the kind sold by Trex®
It may take a little getting used to, (and maybe some well-placed reminders around the house) but once you get used to returning your bags to the grocery store it will become second nature. You will also know that you are doing your part to keep those bags out of the oceans, which might just save a sea creature’s life.
And remember to pass this message on! The more people who properly recycle their bags, the cleaner our oceans and seas will be, the more marine life will be spared, and the less toxins will be in our seafood.