A person goes to the supermarket at least three times a week, each time he takes several packing bags with fruits or vegetables, bread, fish or meat in plastic packaging, and at the checkout puts it all in a couple more bags. As a result, in a week he uses from ten to forty packing bags and a few large ones. All of them are used once, at best – a person uses a certain number of large bags as garbage. During the year, one family throws out a huge number of disposable bags. And over the course of a lifetime, their number reaches such a figure that if you spread them on the ground, you can lay out a road between a couple of cities.
People throw away five types of garbage: plastic and polyethylene, paper and cardboard, metal, glass, batteries. There are also light bulbs, household appliances, rubber, but they are not among those that end up in the trash can on a weekly basis, so we are not talking about them. Of the classic five types, the most dangerous are plastic and polyethylene, because they decompose from 400 to 1000 years. As the world’s population increases, more bags are required every year, and they are used once, the problem with their disposal is growing exponentially. In 30 years, the world may drown in a sea of polyethylene. Paper, depending on the type, decomposes from several weeks to months. Glass and metal take a long time, but they can be separated from garbage and recycled, because they do not emit toxic substances during thermal cleaning. But polyethylene, when heated or burned, releases dioxins, which are no less dangerous than cyanide poisons.
According to Greenpeace Russia, about 65 billion plastic bags are sold in our country a year. In Moscow, this figure is 4 billion, despite the fact that the territory of the capital is 2651 square meters, then by laying out these packages, you can bury all Muscovites under them.
If everything is left unchanged, then by 2050 the world will accumulate 33 billion tons of polyethylene waste, of which 9 billion will be recycled, 12 billion will be burned, and another 12 billion will be buried in landfills. At the same time, the weight of all people is approximately 0,3 billion tons, therefore, humanity will be totally surrounded by garbage.
More than fifty countries in the world have already been horrified by such a prospect. China, India, South Africa and many others have introduced a ban on plastic bags up to 50 microns thick, as a result they have changed the situation: the amount of garbage in landfills has decreased, problems with sewage and drains have decreased. In China, they calculated that over the three years of such a policy, they saved 3,5 million tons of oil. Hawaii, France, Spain, Czech Republic, New Guinea and many other countries (32 in total) have introduced a total ban on plastic bags.
As a result, they have achieved a reduction in the amount of garbage in landfills, solved problems with blockages in the water supply system, cleaned up coastal tourist areas and riverbeds, and saved a lot of oil. In Tanzania, Somalia, the UAE, after the ban, the risk of floods has decreased many times over.
Nikolai Valuev, First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Ecology and Environmental Protection, said the following:
“The global trend, the gradual abandonment of plastic bags is the right step, I support efforts aimed at minimizing harm to the environment and humans, this can only be achieved by consolidating the forces of business, government and society.”
In the long term, it is unprofitable for any state to encourage the use of disposable products in its country. Plastic bags are made from petroleum products, and they are non-renewable resources. It is not rational to spend valuable oil, for which wars are sometimes even launched. Disposing of polyethylene by incineration is extremely dangerous for nature and people, because toxic substances are released into the air, therefore, this is also not an option for any competent government. Simply dumping it in landfills will only make the situation worse: polyethylene that ends up in landfills becomes dirty and difficult to separate from the rest of the garbage, which prevents its processing.
Already now, joint work of the government, business and the population of Russia is needed, only it can change the situation with polyethylene in our country. The government is required to take control of the distribution of plastic bags. From business, to honestly offer paper bags in their stores. And citizens can simply opt for reusable bags that will save nature.
By the way, even taking care of the environment, some companies decided to make money. Biodegradable plastic bags have appeared in stores, but they are bag companies’ speculation over people’s ignorance. These so-called biodegradable bags actually only turn into powder, which is still harmful and will decompose for the same 400 years. They become invisible to the eye and therefore even more dangerous.
Common sense suggests that it is right to refuse disposable products, and world experience confirms that such a measure is feasible. In the world, 76 countries have already banned or restricted the use of polyethylene and have received positive results both in the environment and in the economy. And they are home to 80% of the world’s population, which means that more than half of the world’s inhabitants are already taking steps to prevent a garbage catastrophe.
Russia is a huge country, most urban residents do not notice this problem yet. But this does not mean that it does not exist, if you go to any landfill, you can see mountains of plastic waste. It is in the power of each person to reduce their plastic footprint by simply refusing disposable packaging in the store, thereby protecting their children from environmental problems.