What Are the Pros and Cons of Plastic Bags?

Wondering Why Consumers and Businesses are Going Reusable? Here's Why

As disposable plastic bag bans gain momentum across the United States and the world, this causes a dialog around the advantages and disadvantages of single-use plastic bags. These bags have been a staple at stores of all types and sizes for years, so by this point we have a good idea of the true impact of disposable plastic bags. Below we’ve outlined the pros and cons of plastic bags.

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Con: Negative Environmental Impact

Single-use plastic bags are not biodegradable, so they damage ecosystems and pose a major threat to animals. By some estimates 100 billion single-use plastic bags are thrown away each year in the United States. Countless studies have shown that when animals ingest plastic they suffer from serious health problems that can ultimately result in death.

In order for food chains to function properly, balance needs to be maintained and when disposable plastic bag litter is introduced, that changes everything and not for the better. Plastic bag supporters will cite the durability of plastic bags as a pro, but this durability, or rather the inability of plastic bags to breakdown, is what makes them such an environmental threat.

Pro: Are There Advantages to Disposable Plastic Bags?

The only real benefit of single-use plastic bags is the convenience of having a bag at the ready when you’re checking out, but this isn’t really that much of a benefit because once you develop that habit of carrying your own reusable grocery bags there isn’t any advantage to disposable bags.

Plastic bag proponents will state that disposable plastic bags are durable, but ultimately plastic bags are not more durable than reusable grocery bags which are not prone to rips and tears and can last for 3-5 years or more. Many people use single-use plastic bags to line small garbage cans or to pick up pet waste, but just because disposable bags can be used for these tasks does not mean it is a good idea.

Disposable plastic bags do not safely breakdown, and when they are used as garbage bags they end up in a landfill where they will not breakdown instead of being recycled. There are biodegradable bags on the market that can be used to safely round up trash or pick up after pets with the damaging impact of disposable plastic bags.

Con: Use of Nonrenewable Resources

Many disposable plastic bags are made from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource - 12 million barrels of oil are needed to make 100 billion bags. The drawback of using petroleum is that when this resource is gone it is gone. It is likely that there is enough petroleum left to last for generations at the rate we’re currently using it, but it is such a waste to use petroleum for something as frivolous as single-use plastic bags given that they are typically used only once and have low recycling rates.

So Are You with Us?

The harm of disposable plastic bags far outweighs any benefit. As a matter of fact there aren’t really any benefits to single-use plastic bags. Between reusable shopping bags and biodegradable trash bags, there are no benefits unique and exclusive to disposable grocery bags. Are there?

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