Nowadays, plastics often raise doubts about their environmental impact, in our heads, and it’s quite natural considering the growing awareness on plastic usage. While the globe is moving towards sustainable living using natural and renewable resources, it is quite impossible to eliminate plastics entirely from our daily lives. In many ways, people have become reliant on plastics for a range of segments from packaging and food storage to automobile components, household items, and shopping bags. Today, businesses, from startups to big empires, have been using shopping bags made of plastic for their branding. But, as far as environmental issues are concerned, it’s important to understand the whole life cycle of plastic bags– what it is, how the plastic production process took place, and what happens to it when we discard them? This post explores the whole life cycle of plastic bags. So, stay tuned.
4 Key Stages of Plastic Shopping Bags Lifecycle
Globally, approximately one thousand billion plastic bags are used each year. That again breaks down to over one million bags per minute. There are many steps involved in making plastic bags, and throughout the process, many natural resources are used. This section explores the detailed lifecycle of plastic bags from its birth to disposal.
- Stage 1 – Polymerization Phase: Petroleum (oil) and natural gases are majorly used in the creation of plastics. The plastic creation process begins by treating natural gases or crude oil components through the cracking process. This process converts these components into hydrocarbon monomers such as propylene and ethylene. Further processing may give rise to a wide range of monomers including, vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol, styrene, and many more. These monomers with different properties are then chemically bonded into chains called polymers. Combining wider monomers can produce plastics with a wide range of characteristics and properties.
- Stage 2 – Lifespan: Plastics play an important role in our daily lives. Their beneficial features, especially versatility, allows them to be used in everything ranging from vehicle to toy parts, soft drink bottles to the refrigerators they are stored in and many more. There are a variety of products produce from this flexible material, and plastic shopping bags are no exception. Whether used to carry office supplies or groceries or other stuff, these bags last on an average for twenty minutes before being thrown away or recycled.
- Stage 3 – Recycling Phase: The life of plastic is never-ending as this man-made material takes up to hundreds of years to degrade. However, it is possible to recycle certain plastics. It is possible to melt and reform thermoplastic. Many types of plastics can be recycled several times before they become less usable or worn and torn. At this point in the plastic lifecycle, most recycled plastic gets down-cycled. Additionally, plastic recycling requires approximately 85 times more energy than creating it. Thus, more than 98% of plastics are discarded instead of being recycled. To make the recycling process easier, you need to sort plastics into different categories using identification codes. Then, send the separated plastics to the appropriate recycling facility, where they are processed into tiny pieces before being washed, dried, and heated. Afterward, the recycling facility transforms the plastics into the desired form.
- Stage 4 – End Life: Despite efforts to increase the recycling process, plastic bags that aren’t recycled end up in oceans or landfills. Many scientists estimate that plastic can take up to a thousand years to disintegrate completely, releasing carbon emission and damaging the environment devastatingly. Also, research shows that every year more than 10,000 animals and a million aquatic creatures are killed because of consuming plastic bags.
Though plastic has helped us achieve many things and enhance our lives, we must shun single-use plastic and opt for biodegradable or recycled plastic bags. If we all implement the 4R principles of – refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle, then it would have a great impact on the environment. If you are looking to buy biodegradable, reusable plastic bags for your daily need, then it is important to employ industry-leading, trustworthy suppliers like ANS Plastics Corp. The company is one of the most prominent plastic shopping bag manufacturers in the United States. They have 50 years of industry experience in custom manufacturing of plastic shopping bags.