As it gets closer to the holidays, we take time to plan and prepare ourselves to be with friends and loved ones. As college students, we save up as much money as possible, and, with the little money that we actually have, buy gifts.
What are you planning to buy? Where are you going to buy those gifts? During the holiday season, the normal amount that we spend shopping increases. According to the website nodebtplan.net, 31 percent of Americans will spend over $700. Imagine how many plastic bags will be given out to transport those gifts, and then probably will be thrown out. What do you do with your plastic bags?
Let’s face it, the holiday season is a time of year when we all use plastic bags, whether it’s for grocery shopping, buying something at the mall or using them as garbage bags. We commonly assume that once plastic is thrown away, it’s gone for good. Plastic is everywhere you look: bottles, phones, bags, etc. To a customer, a plastic bag seems free, but in reality, it’s not. The production of plastic bags, and plastic itself, is expensive and causes environmental issues and risks to human health.
According to bagitmovie.com, it’s estimated that 12 million barrels of oil are needed annually to make plastic bags. In 2009, the U.S. alone used 102 billion plastic bags. To produce this amount of plastic costs about $4 billion. This production of plastic includes the burning of fossil fuels, which are non-renewable resources that directly affect global warming.
What is plastic made of? Two additives give plastic its characteristics: bisphenol A (BPA), which makes it hard and phthalates, which make it soft. What most people don’t know is that both chemicals are toxic. BPA has been linked to breast and prostate cancer, and phthalates have been linked to infertility and low sperm count.
Unfortunately, plastic does not break down, but instead, breaks apart into fragments. Sometimes these plastic bags don’t get recycled and end up in landfills. You constantly see plastic bags in rivers, stuck in trees or on the ground along the highway. This carelessness greatly affects our animal and marine life. Just about 80 percent of our plastic ends up in oceans. Animals and marine life mistake it for food, causing them to choke or become entangled by the plastic and die.
What can you do to help? Giving up plastic entirely is a little extreme, but there are simple ways you can reduce your use of it. Instead of carrying the gifts you buy in plastic bags, bring your own reusable shopping bags. It’s never too early to make a New Year’s resolution to reduce your use of plastic by simply switching to reusable alternatives.
The next film in the Office of Sustainability’s “green” series is Bag It. This film focuses on our society’s use and abuse of plastic and offers solutions to our plastic “addiction.” The film will be shown on Tuesday, Dec. 13 in Sweigart Auditorium at 6 p.m.
– Katelyn White