How Animals are affected by Plastics
By Sabrina Leon Landegger 6S


Plastic bags are terrible for the environment and they are even worse to a lot of marine animals. Plastic bags can hurt animals so badly that they can even kill them. Over one hundred thousand animals including dolphins, turtles, whales and penguins are killed every year by swallowing and choking on plastic bags. The way an animal would die from a plastic bag is that if you drop a plastic bag or if one flies away in the wind, the wind will almost always take it to the nearest ocean or lake. Then once the plastic bag makes its way into the water lots of animals can mistake them for food and eat them. What the animals don’t know when they eat it is that once they ingest a plastic bag it stays in their gut creating a slow and painful death. The plastic stays in its body until the animal decomposes and after that the plastic floats away to kill another animal. Even if you don’t live by the ocean or river or lake, your plastic bags could end up there, because bags washed down storm drains, blown into rivers and often end up in there. Plastic bags can even kill children if they swallow them.

Lots of animals have had so many bad things happen to them from plastics.
Here are some of the worst ones. In August 2000 an eight meter Brydes whale died from swallowing six square meters of plastic. Its stomach was tightly packed and over 50% of it was plastic shopping bags. Two birds got caught up in a plastic bag while flying around and crashed to the ground which caused them a slow and painful die. A Ruback turtle was found with 57kg of plastic bags blocking its insides. A calf was recently put down in Mudgee NSW, it found to have eaten 8 plastic bags and, a Minke Whale was found washed up in France with 800kg of plastic bags inside it. In 1998 A pelican was found dead in Kiama, Australia after eating 17 plastic bags. The pelican was preserved and named ‘Pete’. Now he stands in front of Fitzroy Falls reminding people of his story.


Plastic Bag Usage
There are 4 billion plastic bags used in Ontario every year and 380 billion are used worldwide. These plastic bags get disposed of carelessly and this waste represents 46,000 plastic bags for each square mile of the ocean. In the USA, the average person uses 259 pounds of plastic packaging per year. Also the USA uses around one tenth of the world's plastic bags every year and only 2% of those are recycled.

Where Plastic Bags Come From
Plastic bags are made primarily from polyethelene, which is made mostly from natural gas, a finite resource. Plastic bags are formed by blow molding, which means a plastic film is blown into a mold.
Petroleum oil is formed when prehistoric plants get crushed by many tons of rocks. After, people pull them out of the ground.melt and mold them into plastic products, including plastic bags. If we would exchange the petroleum used to make one plastic bag for car usage instead, you would be able to drive the car for 115 metres!

Biodegradable Bags
True, there are plastic biodegradeble bags, but it turns out that they are just as bad, or worse for the environment as regular ones. They just contain cornstarch, which does biodegrade. When the cornstarch biodegrades, the bag disintegrates into tiny pieces which pose just as much a threat to wildlife as whole bags. Compostable bags do exist, but making them consumes a lot more water and natrual gas and give off a lot more cabon dioxide then regular plastic bags. Reusable bags are the way to go!

Discarding Plastic
Some people think the solution to the plastic bag problem is to burn them for energy. However, burning generates methane, ethane, aslehydes, ketones, dioxins, acroleins, and other chemicals. Unfortunately, more plastic is burned than recycled in Ontario(13.6% vs. 5.2%). The remaining plastic products , which amounts to 81.2% approximately, are thrown in landfills, where they take more than 500 years to degrade. Plastic is photodegradable, so it decomposes only when exposed to UV (ultraviolet) light, which is scarce at the bottom of a landfill. Moreover, governments, communities and other stakeholders spend a lot of money to clean the plastic bags that are scattered on the streets. The easiest and most sensible way would be to find an alternative for plastic bags, such as cloth bags. Then there would be less to discard and less money and energy wasted on dicsarding plastic.