SNHS Spotlight: The Problem With Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are everywhere simply because of their convenience. Instead of bringing a large tote bag to the grocery store, people tend to use ten to fifteen plastic bags. However, the convenience of plastic bags does not overshadow their harmful nature to both the environment and to our health. Many countries, stores, and malls are banning the use of plastic bags and switching to biodegradable materials. 

To begin, plastic bags are harmful to the environment because they pollute our water and land. Due to their lightweight nature, they can travel long distances through wind gusts or tides. This causes plastic bags to become caught in trees, fences, and oceans, which in turn harms our environment. Plastic bags are also non-renewable sources meaning that they largely affect climate change, which is slowly taking a toll on our environment. Most plastic bags are made of a material called polypropylene, which consists of natural gases and petroleum. These materials are known as fossil-fuels, which cause green-house gases. These gases are extremely harmful to the environment and largely contribute to climate change and air pollution. 

Image credits to the Staten Island Advance

Along with this, plastic bags do not degrade. They are broken down into pieces which end up in our environment and are many times consumed by wildlife, harming them. Plastic bags are also extremely difficult to recycle. Due to this, only five percent of plastic bags are recycled, causing the others to be broken down and thrown in the ocean. Once they are in the ocean, they release pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyl and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which disrupt our body’s hormones. Therefore, plastic bags are extremely harmful to the environment, which is why many countries are moving toward biodegradable material. 

Unlike plastic bags, biodegradable plastics are easy to recycle. They are composed of organic materials without chemicals and toxins. They also reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced. When plastic bags are burned in landfills, they produce an overwhelming amount of greenhouse gases, which releases 500 million tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. By switching to biodegradable materials, we will be helping the environment, ourselves, wildlife, and climate change. Biodegradable plastics are the future for our country and something everyone should start implementing into their daily lives, even if it’s as small as bringing a tote bag to the grocery store! 

Works Cited 

Doyne, Shannon. “Should Plastic Bags Be Banned Everywhere?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Mar. 2020, 

Kazmeyer, Milton. “What Are the Benefits of Biodegradable Plastic?” Sciencing, 2 Mar. 2019, 

Parker, Laura. “Plastic Bag Bans Are Spreading. But Are They Truly Effective?” Environment, 17 Apr. 2019, 

“Plastic Bag Ban in Your State: Yes or No?” The Pros and Cons of Plastic Bag Bans |, 

By: Rhea Mittal’ 22, SNHS Member

Categories: SNHS