Polythene bags : a shopping necessity or a bag of menace

Friday, March 23, 2012

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Polythene bags are very popular with both retailers and consumers. They are strong, lightweight, functional and hygienic means of carrying items. Though they are a modern convenience that we cannot do without, they are a menace. Around the world, this menace is showing its impact now. Not totally excluding the impact of other reasons like green house gases, pollution and deforestation, polythene has a much greater impact.

As for me being an international student at University of Ottawa, I’ve come realise a lot of things. When I was a kid, we had this old age tradition to take our own shopping bags even for little stuff may be just fruits or vegetables. We would have exclusive bags, could be handmade or recycled or cloth that were beautifully painted or embroidered. I never understood why my grandma was always against getting any polythene bag home. As I grew older, finding out why a polybag was not good, I came across a lot of strange facts that surprised me.

Polythene bags have been of great benefit to mankind but its not at all beneficial. In places where bags are not re-used, they land up clogging the drains, being eaten by stray animals and also contaminates the soil and water. Our ancestors have always been using cloth bags even before polythene got introduced. Since the advent of polythene, a lot of people were against it. They must have predicted the harmful impact of it years ago. I’ve never been a patron of polythene myself and have used back-packs for all my shopping needs. It was until I came to Ottawa to realise the fact that people use polythene bags for every single thing.

Apparently polythene bags cannot be degraded efficiently and mostly lands up in landfill sites. It takes many years for a single polybag to decompose. I’ve noticed people take home loads of polythene bags with grocery. After that the polythene bag lands up in the garbage and is of no use. Not having offended anyone but even after some stores charge for the polybag, people still take the “menace” back home.

People just need to realise that if something is widely available, it should not be taken for granted. Wouldn’t it be simpler if each one takes their own bag shopping cloth bag and gets grocery in it. Few stores are going polybag free and use paper bags or recycled plastic bags. Overall there is a still widely accepted fact that a polybag is essential when you shop. It takes lot of petroleum resources to produce them and in today’s changing scenario, petroleum resources are limited.

One would have noticed the gas prices being higher than normal since the last few months. If we switch to a cleaner greener way of living, we would surely be giving our future generations a better Earth to live. Gas prices would go low and other factors would normalize, if we could just go green and switch to cloth bags. If everyone takes a pledge not to use polythene, the redirected resources from the polythene could be used in a more appropriate way.


~ tuhina seth - guest blogger
photo credit - the truth about plastic

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