Plastic polythene bags: A threat to sustainability?

It is true that people living in many developed countries have grown concerns regarding environmental sustainability and climate change. However, according to a study in south East Asia many developing countries such as Singapore and Cambodia have environmental sustainability score even less than the global average.

As you know, ‘Sustainability’ actually refers to the prevention of natural resources from exhaustion so that the biotic and abiotic factors in the environment remain equal. Many human activities nowadays are however trying to deplete the idea of a sustainable and an environmental future.

Even the everyday products that people carry with them are proving to be detrimental to the environment and plastic polythene bags are one of those pernicious products. According to the Earth policy institute 2 million plastic bags are used every minute in the world.

Why are plastic bags a threat?

Today’s world is significantly affected by global warming which is rising the Earth’s temperature and to add insult to injury, the lands, seas and the air are severely polluted. It is shocking to hear that the most severe land pollution occurs in the most developed countries of the world and plastic bags play a significant role in polluting them.

Only 5% of the plastic bags that people usually carry are recycled and the others are improperly disposed off in landfills. The most threatening property of plastic polythene bags is that they cannot be decomposed by the micro-organisms present in land. Instead of biodegradation they undergo the process of photo degradation and thus they never fully decompose. They just breakdown into smaller and smaller poisonous pieces.

Improper waste disposal

These poisonous pieces strangle the throats of animals, birds and mainly marine life and kill them; it results in a misbalance in the ecosystem and has led to extinction of different animals. In fact about 100 million marine mammals die each year due to our plastic waste. The most vulnerable species are sea turtles, seals and fish.

A sea turtle eating a plastic bag.

Apart from these poor animals, people who eat sea food can also be affected. As the fish eat these plastics, they are unable to either digest or release them and they remain in the animal’s gut. As soon as the plastic from the body of fish enters human body it can cause:

· Loss of eyesight

· Difficulty in breathing

· Cancers, other respiratory problems and even death

According to about 400,000 people die every year due to plastic waste.

What can be done?

It is justified that plastic pollution is proving to be a threat and something should be done to stop it. Many countries are taking steps to outlaw the use of plastic polythene bags and encourage the use of the reusable cloth bags. Many countries are even encouraging recycling of these bags instead of throwing them away.

Not only the governments but the people should also take steps and reduce their plastic waste. The United Nations Environment Programme has also introduced an international coast cleaning day in which people from over 100 countries volunteer.


Concerns are growing in our society regarding the usage of plastic bags. People are trying to reduce the usage of plastic bags. If you think that you are using an excessive amount of plastic bags, then say no to them whenever you can, or else you would have to reap just as you had sown.



M.Asad Majeed is a student and a content writer.

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