Plastic Bags Create Environmental Hazards

Most of the local reasons given for reducing bag use have to do with their sheer volume and long-term persistence. The Washington-based

Worldwatch Institute estimates that 500 billion plastic shopping bags are distributed and discarded every year, each of which can take up to 1,000 years to break down.

In India, discarded plastic bags on roadsides were being ingested by free-ranging cows, resulting in many deaths of the animals. In Dhaka, plastic bags were found to be the culprits in serious flooding by clogging sewer drains.

In Australia and Ireland, both countries that rely on the beauty of their coasts to attract tourists, there was a desire to present a clean image, as plastic bags were making up a significant amount of coastal litter. People there were also concerned about the dangers posed to marine life that can ingest, or get tangled in, plastic bags.

In a number of African countries, there are worries that plastic bags can act as breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Plastic bags in China are known as "white pollution" because they are carelessly discarded in the streets.

San Francisco, in passing its ban, cited concern not just over litter and danger to sea mammals but also greenhouse-gas emissions associated with plastic bags, which are petroleum-based products. Leaf Rapids was worried about litter as well as the fact that household waste in thin plastic bags appeared to be attracting bears to its dump.

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