Plastic Bags: Convenient and Cruel

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KIT
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ESSAY
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Plastic Bags:
Convenient and Cruel
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They come in handy for carrying your groceries—or your lunch or your dirty
sneakers. But are they worth it? By Lauren Magaziner
In the ocean, marine animals
Plastic bags
threaten the
world’s marine
animals.
mistake floating bags for food. Just
one nibble can be deadly. Plastic
bags can block the digestive tract,
causing a slow and agonizing death.
Other animals are strangled when
bags wrap around their bodies. In
all, thousands of marine animals—
including sea turtles, seals, seabirds,
dolphins, whales, and sharks—die
each year because of plastic bags.
But marine animals aren’t the
only ones eating plastic. When
lastic bags are on
biodegradable. Plastic, a
the harmful chemicals in plastic
the loose: They’re
material made by humans, is
leach into the ground or are
floating through oceans,
not. Though plastic bags will
ingested by land or sea animals, the
tumbling across deserts,
disintegrate over several decades,
chemicals become part of our food
minuscule pieces of plastic remain.
chain. That means you may have
and sliding along city streets.
Humans use an estimated 1 trillion
plastic bags every year. That’s about
10 times the number of stars in the
Milky Way galaxy!
In other words, plastic bags
never really go away.
So where do the bags end up?
Some people put used plastic
unknowingly swallowed a bit of a
plastic bag too.
So if plastic bags are so terrible,
how did they end up in every store?
Yes, plastic bags are useful, but
bags in the garbage to be taken to
experts say they are wreaking havoc
landfills. Other people mistakenly
on the environment. Already, cities
place them in general plastic
like San Francisco and Washington,
recycling bins, and the bags end
first introduced to shoppers, they
D.C., have placed restrictions on the
up damaging expensive machinery.
seemed like a huge improvement
use of plastic bags.
(Plastic bags can’t be recycled with
over paper bags. They were cheaper
other plastic items, like bottles and
to produce and less prone to break.
Is it time to ban them for good?
Poisonous Plastic
Most things you throw
away—like food or paper—are
20
Scholastic Scope • APRIL 2014
containers.) Most often, though,
Good Intentions
In 1977, when plastic bags were
Plus, they seemed to be better
plastic bags blow away and get
for the environment. Paper bags
swept out to sea. And that is where
are made by heating woodchips
they cause the most trouble.
in a chemical solution. This
Shutterstock (dolphin)
P
A plastic
bag can
choke me.
process causes 70 percent more air
pollution and 50 times more water
pollution than the process used to
make plastic bags.
Plastic bags are also more
What Do You Think?
Should we ban plastic bags? Use evidence from the
article to support each side of this debate. Write
the information on the lines below.
sanitary than reusable cotton or
Yes
canvas bags, which can harbor
harmful germs from raw meat and
produce. A recent study showed
can make humans sick. (Supporters
NO
Plastic bags are the worst.
that about 1 in every 10 reusable
grocery bags contains bacteria that
Debate
1 Plastic bags don’t
Plastic bags aren’t all bad.
1
biodegrade.
of a plastic bag ban are quick to
point out that the solution is to
wash reusable bags more often.)
Rather than banning plastic
bags, some argue for limiting their
use. Charging a fee per bag at the
Stephen Stickler/Photographer’s Choice/Getty Images (bag)
checkout counter, for instance,
might encourage shoppers to use
2
2
3
3
fewer bags. Stores could also offer
bags made of more Earth-friendly
materials, such as corn.
And why ban bags when we
can reuse them? Ninety percent of
Americans reuse their plastic bags
at home for everything from lining
trash cans to picking up dog poop.
It’s clear that we love our plastic
bags. But do they do more harm
than good?
•
The average
American uses
500 plastic
bags a year.
Examine points on both sides of the debate—as
well as your own beliefS—and decide if plastic bags should
be banned. State your opinion in one sentence below. This can become the
thesis statement for an argument essay.
Get this
activity
Online
take this Activity further! WRITE AN
essay using our Scope Template.
www.scholastic.com/scope • APRIL 2014
21

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