The disadvantages of using plastic bags

Written by kathleen odenthal
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The disadvantages of using plastic bags
Plastic bags usually end up turning into a pile of pollutants (Altkleider image by Marem from

Americans use up to 100 billion shopping bags each year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Out of all those bags, only 1 to 3 per cent actually get recycled, according to the same report. Plastic bags are made from polythene, which pollutes the air during production. The disposal of plastic bags into the water also results in the sickness and deaths of many marine animals.

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Polluting the Ocean

Not only are plastic bags polluting the ocean, they are killing the fish and other animals that make a habitat under water. Each year, around 1 billion seabirds and mammals die from either suffocation or ingesting a plastic bag.

Plastic Ingredients

Plastic is made from oil, an expensive and dwindling resource. According to the UK Plastics Federation, 4 per cent of the world's oil usage goes to the manufacturing of plastic bags. According to the same study, plastic use is 20 times what it was in the 1950s, meaning more oil is used in their production.


Most plastic winds up in landfills, which release pollutants into the air breathed by all living things. Plastic bags that don't wind up sitting in landfills for years upon years are disposed through fire. Burning plastic releases harmful fumes into the air. This increases air pollution drastically. One of the pollutants that gets released in the air is bisphenol A, which can increase hyperactivity and cause the body to store fat. Other toxins that get released from plastic bags include dioxins and heavy metals.


Not only do the landfills increase air pollutants, but so does the manufacturing of plastic. Chemical plants that produce plastic bags release a large quantity of harmful toxins into the air, which can cause health problems in people with compromised immune systems.


Infants and toddlers get their curious hands on a plastic bag have a high risk of suffocation. Approximately 20 infants die each year from plastic bag suffocation, according to the book "An Idiot's Guide to Children's Safet." To prevent this, parents should either keep plastic bags out of the house, or at least out of reach from little children.

Not Reusable

Another disadvantage of plastic bags is that they are not a renewable resource. Plastic bags not burnt will last hundreds of years, and at a rate of 13 billion bags a year, that is a lot of plastic that will continue to accumulate.

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