By Franciscan Associate Gerianne Dobmeier
This past month, News & Views featured several articles from our sisters advocating for the care of our common home. This week, the sisters who live at Fredonia Place of Williamsville and Father John Leising are showing their support by choosing reusable bags over plastic or paper bags. This is just one step towards cleaning up our environment where everyone can choose to take action! How can this small change, using recycled bags instead of plastic or paper, make an impact on cleaning up our environment? Let’s take a look at a few statistics:
- Number of trees cut down for paper bag consumption, in the US: 14,000,000
- Number of years for a paper bag to biodegrade in a landfill: centuries
- Estimated number of years for a plastic bag to biodegrade in a landfill: 1,000
- Barrels of oil required for U.S. annual plastic bag consumption: 12,000,000
- Number of marine animals killed each year due to plastic bags: 100,000
A familiar question posed by many checkout clerks at the local grocery store, “Paper or plastic?” has more of an impact on the environment than most think. One might choose paper thinking it will decompose, or one might choose plastic knowing the bag will be reused or recycled. But statistics show the enormous amount of resources used when choosing paper or plastic. Whether it be trees or oil, the number of years it takes for both paper and plastic to biodegrade in a landfill is extensive and detrimental to the environment.
The Center for Biological Diversity states: “Plastic accumulating in our oceans and on our beaches have become a global crisis. At current rates plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050.” One reason is that hundreds of thousands of marine animals and sea birds die from becoming entangled in plastic or eating plastic bags, mistaken for food. The animal’s digestive process is invaded causing choking and blocking of their intestines. Great pain and eventual death is the ending result. You may say that “I always throw my plastic bag in a bin so it doesn’t end up in the water.” But any plastic that is not recyclable, ends up in a landfill. When the rubbish is transported, plastic is often blown away and ends up around drains and enters rivers. Even though you had no intention of hurting an animal, disposing of a plastic bag may have caused its death indirectly.
Continually choosing a reusable bag over paper and plastic can help preserve our natural resources, decrease the size of our landfills, be less threatening to marine life and its food web, and provide us with cleaner air to breathe. Adopting reusable bags instead of plastic can save the life of a bird, turtle, fish, whale, and other marine animals.
You have an opportunity to care for our common home. Take action, and choose reusable bags!