Are Plastic Bags Destroying the Environment?

By : Isaac Hutchinson



Plastic is a material that Earth cannot digest. Every bit of plastic ever produced still exists and will be here with us for hundreds of years. Once in the environment, plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller particles that attract toxic chemicals, are ingested by wildlife on land and in the ocean, and contaminate our food chain. Our oceans and waterways are full of these small particles, which currents accumulate in convergence zones called gyres, located in the center of the world’s oceans.


The most notable of these is called “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” but while the idea of a giant patch of garbage in the ocean is unsettling, the reality is more so: a planetary soup of small bits of plastic that circulate throughout the water column and which we have no hope of cleaning up.


New York is banning the distribution of single-use plastic bags statewide on Sunday (Feb 16, 2020), a move with the ambitious goal of reducing the billions of discarded bags that stream annually into landfills, rivers and oceans. The law forbids most businesses from handing out the thin bags that are ubiquitous in supermarkets, bodegas and boutiques, making New York the third state to bar the bags after California, where a ban has already changed the way millions of people shop, and Oregon, where one took effect last month.


 Our very own HiTide, Arielle Dreyfus, has created the Return Plastic initiative to help address this issue in our community. Plastic bags are not recycled when you put them in recycling bins. However, if you collect your plastic bags and take them to your local Publix, there is a bin where you can throw away your bags and Publix will recycle them with an independent recycling facility. She has set up a bin below to collect plastic bags and takes them to Publix weekly. Please collect your household’s plastic bags and bring them there so they do not end up in our oceans or landfills. (The bin is located on the side of the Main Office!)