By Alberto López Herrero
Plastic bags are a necessity that we have created, since the cost of their manufacture, the pollution they produce and their usefulness are not in line with the fair and sustainable economy with which we try to preserve the planet.
Its massive use became widespread in the late 1970s. Petroleum derivatives are used for its production, so they leave polluting elements if they are not recycled. Making a bag takes only a few seconds, but for each one of them four grams of CO are emitted into the atmosphere2 that contribute decisively to greenhouse effect.
They also entail another added problem, and that is that most of the stores and supermarkets that continue to distribute them discovered in them a cheap window for their advertising, but highly polluting, by stamping that propaganda with a toxic synthetic material based on lead , cadmium or even iron.
Their use, between 200 and 300 plastic bags per person per year, is limited to once or twice in a short space of time and then they are thrown away, so that between 500,000 million and a trillion bags circulate in the world each year. If we take into account that 5% of the oil that is extracted goes to the plastics industry, we will realize the environmental disaster we are talking about.
And this is where the catastrophe to which we are faced begins, because its disintegration can take almost 500 years and it is more expensive to recycle a plastic bag than to produce a new one. The most benevolent calculation places 8,000 million tons of plastic that annually go to rivers, lakes and seas, and that on their way clog pipes and collapse sewers. What's more, plastic bags have been found even in the Arctic Circle, and these waste now represent 10% of the total waste on the coasts.
In their degradation process, plastic bags kill marine animals by mistaking them, for example, for jellyfish, and due to the action of currents, waves and the sun, they are fragmented into tiny pieces called microplastics that, in addition to release toxic substances, mix with plankton and become part of the food chain of animals, and can also reach our table.
Scientists estimate that each year about a million birds and 100,000 marine mammals die from plastic debris. But the worst discovery has been the call seventh continent, a floating garbage dump in the Pacific, a large island a thousand kilometers from Hawaii, which occupies the equivalent of between 3 and 7 times the size of Spain. It is a large plastic platform, originated by the force of the North Pacific current, which rotates clockwise and prevents plastic debris from dispersing towards the coasts, carrying debris through the center of the spiral. centripetal force.
However, researchers are convinced that it is not the only floating island of plastic garbage and that there would be at least four more in the world, which would confirm the theory that this type of pollution is round-trip: what you throw away it reaches others and what reaches you has been thrown away elsewhere.
If, as has been shown, not even the so-called virgin beaches are free of these polluting plastic particles in the water and in the sand, the solutions do not go through replacing the bags with other more ecological, but for its elimination and replacement by those of a lifetime: cloth or wicker, since that measure would also lead to less use of oil. But above all, we must improve the management of recycling, both industrial and individual, because the sea cannot be a plastic cemetery.
CCS Center for Solidarity Collaborations