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Plastic Bag Pollution

In 2015, UK shops with at least 250 employees were to start charging 5p for plastic carrier bags. Since, an estimated 15 billion single-use plastic bags have been taken out of circulation. However, despite this huge reduction, an estimated 13 billion are still used each year in the UK, with approximately 500 billion worldwide. These plastic bags can’t be recycled and can take up to 1000 years to decompose.

I was on Twitter recently, mindlessly scrolling down, when I saw a certain tweet. It didn’t stick out at the time, but when I looked back on it, I started to think. Though I can’t remember it exactly, it read something like this: ‘The amount of money I’ve wasted on coffees thinking, oh, it’s only a fiver.’ Plastic bags only cost 5 pence. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a lot. Not something you’d notice gone. Though the tax has reduced usage by a significant amount, with 13 billion plastic carrier bags still being used each year, it’s clearly not enough. There is talk of the tax increasing in 2020 to 10p, but again, it’s hardly much. Better than nothing, I suppose.

The average life expectancy in the UK is 81 years. I am 18 years old. At this rate, if it does not change, by the time I turn 81 the UK will have dumped eight hundred and nineteen billion (819,000,000,000) plastic bags. That will be the year 2082. It’s estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. And I’ve only talked about single-use plastic carrier bags, not the abundance of other plastic products and packaging wasted each year.

But you won’t miss just 5p, right?

A quick Google search of simply the word ‘plastic’ comes up with tens of thousands of images of plastic pollution, of beaches and oceans filled with plastic. Clearly, we aren’t doing enough to combat this issue. It’s all well and good using a few nylon shopping bags instead of buying plastic ones, but this problem isn’t so easily fixed. At a consumer level, it’s almost impossible to go plastic-free—especially on a budget. In order to fight plastic pollution, we must tackle the root of the case: manufacturers. If we don’t fight for the reduction of plastic, we’ll be swimming in it (literally) before we even know what’s hit us.

We already are.


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Niamh Clune
Niamh Clune
07 Nis 2019

A wonderful, factual thoughtful piece, Eve.

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