No, I would not like a plastic bag…

While eating dinner with Natalie the other night, I was asked the all too classic question when it came time to leave,  “Would you like a plastic bag?”.  An innocent enough question, but one that has dire consequences for our planet and future.  Let’s start at the beginning shall we?
A plastic bag is made of Polyethylene, derived from fossil fuels.  Each year over 60 million tons are produced.  Every day Americans use 270 million plastic bags, leading to over 100 billion a year.  Though incredibly convenient, they are only made to be used a few times at most.  After carrying your item home, you simply toss the bag.  The trash man picks it up on Tuesday morning, and all is good.  Right?….
Very wrong, Polyethylene is not biodegradable.  Meaning it takes several hundred years to compost.  Several hundred years… Each time you buy something trivial and toss the bag once home, that very bag will be around longer than your children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children.  That is highly immoral and should be illegal. 
Fossil fuels are made up of FOSSILS.  Fossils are made up of carbon that was once a living creature.  Fossil fuels are made up of the bodies and spirits of creatures who lived long long ago.  We are in effect offering the essence of our ancestors on the alter of commercialism.  Our black ceremony is changing the environment.  Warming it up and altering the chemical structure through pollutants.  Life will be forced to adapt to this new environment in unthinkable ways.  It appears we are setting the stage for a second Age of the Lizards, whether homegrown or extra terrestrial.
So what do we do?  Our culture is so dependent on fossil fuels that it is a neurotic addiction.  One great step would be a bacteria or nanotech that turns waste plastic into energy.  It is still carbon, on a molecular level it should be able to be converted back to its original state.  Daniel Burd, a 16 year old Canadian recently discovered that Sphingomonas, a type of bacteria, can degrade over 40% of the weight of plastic bags in less than three months.  Another great step would be to follow the lead of South Africa and totally ban them with a large fine or jail time.  San Fransisco has recently done this, but with a paltry $200 fine.  Another step would be to consume less store bought junk.  A great way to tell what to buy is ask “How close does this item look to the way it was grown?”.  If it has been super processed and no longer looks anything like what it is made from, chances are it took a lot of fuel to produce and is wrapped in plastic.
Ultimately, doing without plastic bags is a change that would be noticeable at first, but manageable.  It would clean up our oceans and rivers, and free up crucial fuel resources that will help in the coming “Great Change”.  But most importantly, it would prevent future generations from having to deal with massive environmental devastation and looking back on us like barbarians.  So next time someone asks just say “No, I would not like a plastic bag….”

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