Updated: Oct 15, 2019
Plastic bags are one of the most common and unnecessary forms of ocean pollution. Using something once and disposing it is part of our current throw-away culture that has had a lasting effect on our marine ecosystem. Although plastic bags were only created 30 years ago, it has reached every single corner of our planet. It enters our ocean through streams, water ways, wind transport, littering, and land pollution, where it persists indefinitely. Up to 80% of plastic pollution in the ocean comes from land.
From ingestion to entanglement, marine life that interacts with plastic has an increased likelihood of mortality of almost 40%. Plastic pollution effects different species of marine animals differently. Large megafauna like cetaceans, pinnipeds, turtles and sharks are threatening by entanglement that results in drowning. They are also threatened by ingestion, resulting in a stomach full of plastic and no room for nutrition. Sea turtles are known to mistake plastic bags as jellyfish and eat them. Plastics that have broken down in microscopic pieces enter fish larvae, and when the fish are caught for humans, we eat that plastic too.
Usage and persistence
Plastic bags are used for 12 minutes on average before being thrown away. They are then sent to landfill or littered without being recycled. Most recycling facilities don't even recycle plastic bags because they make the process less efficient. Incineration, which is the primary form of "recycling," in Hawaii, results in air pollution from burning plastics. Bags littered on land often clog drains and pipes as well.
The 100 billion plastic bags that are used in the United States annually take 12 million barrels of finite oil to manufacture. That means that the gas it takes to drive one mile created 12 bags that will never go away. In fact, plastic has become so engrained into our planet that it has created a permanent presence in our fossil record that can be used to identify this time period for the rest of eternity.
Plastic bags take upwards of 1,000 years to degrade. They also do not fully degrade, they photo-degrade through light, where they become micro plastics that act as sponges for toxins and continue to pollute the environment.... forever.
If you're reading this, you've probably heard that plastic bags aren't great. But when you explore just how significant the issue is, it can become overwhelming that we are exposing ourselves and the ocean to this terrible product that has deleterious effects.
Using Ziploc™ bags for lunches, children, and on the go meals has become the norm for many families. However, this results in hundreds of dollars per year that each household has to spend, and a constant need to purchase more. This product can easily add up to thousands of dollars over a few years. Spending the money we all work hard for on something that will be used once and kill the planet doesn't make sense. This goes for aluminum foil and Seran™ wrap as well.
In the past, these products have been the most convenient option. They appear cheap, and save us a lot of time. But as sustainable, reusable options enter the market, it becomes clear disposable sandwich bags are really just costing you money. There are other ways to save time.
There are so many other options you can use to package your lunch. You can get a lunchbox, use Pyrex tupperware, or wrap in towels. The main idea is to start packaging your meals and snacks in reusable containers. This eliminates the need for disposable, costly products that pollute our planet.
I use a metal container for sandwiches that I bought in 2016, and just recently discovered reusable silicone bags from Kiva World that can be used for everything else.
Kiva World is a sustainable brand based in Finland that creates reusable silicone bags can be used for your lunches again and again. The largest bag can hold up to 6 cups of liquids or solids, and the smaller bag holds 4 cups. You can put soup, snacks, sandwiches, or fruit in it. The cap slides on to make a liquid-proof seal that will never leak, and the bags are dishwasher safe.
Another thing I love about Kiva World bags is that they are made of silicone. Silicone is non-toxic. Unlike plastic, silicone doesn't contain BPA or phthalates that disrupt our immune system and hormone regulation. Silicone is made from materials that are abundant in our environment, not scarce like oil.
Options like these give us opportunity to be the best steward for our ocean we can be. Without brands like Kiva World, Ziplocs and other single use plastic bags would be our only convenient option. But nowadays, we have the choice to do better for the planet. So next time you need something to take your sandwich to work in, which will you choose?