Plastic Pollution
December 07 2007

Plastic bags fly into environmental storm

by Bill

The plastic age.

Plastics have only been around for about 150 years -- Alexander Parkes created the first man-made plastic in 1862. As they haven't been around that long no one can be sure how long they take to break down. But environmentalists, scientists and manufacturers generally agree that the process can take anything up to 1000 years.

Since their introduction to U.S. supermarkets in the late 1970's plastic bags have become a ubiquitous presence. They were a blessing for every shopkeeper in the world; being lighter, stronger and cheaper than the conventional paper bag. Their numbers spread rapidly and it is now estimated that the annual worldwide consumption of plastic bags is currently running at between 500 billion to one trillion.

The average plastic shopping bag is made from polyethylene -- a thermoplastic made from oil -- and rivals a cockroach for indestructibility.

They biodegrade very slowly. In fact, they photodegrade which means they over time break down into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers which eventually contaminate soils and waterways. As a consequence their microscopic particles can enter the food chain.

Read the rest of the story here and be sure to have your reusuable bags on hand when shopping. I try to leave a couple in the car otherwise it's easy for me to forget.