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Mother Teresa reportedly once said that simply getting rid of plastic bags would eradicate Malaria. A recent report from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Forestry (EPA) seems to back up the harm of an item many of us use every day for a short period of time, but often take for granted. It said that out of the 482 different kinds of plastic bags circulating in the country 68.6 percent of them come from unknown sources and, in addition to harming wildlife and landfills for centuries, are potentially toxic.
Girma Gemechu, who is environmental protection professional at the Ministry pointed out that millions of plastic bags are dished out everyday in supermarkets and yet are so flimsy they are often only used once and then thrown out into the environment where they take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Burning them only releases toxic materials that cause cancer. “Plastic bags often suffocate animals and are bad for the soil we rely on for food. One solution would be for companies to produce thicker bags that can be reused” he said.
“Thick plastic often costs at least 2 birr which is more than the price of bread so this encourages people to use the cheapest plastic bags possible” he added.
Girma argued that people have to look at more than the price of the plastic bags, “they must see the environmental impact, once they buy a thick bag, they can use it many times which means that they will play a role in improving the environment.’’
It was noted that on January 2011 Kenya banned the import of plastics bags that have below 0.06 inch thicknesses to reduce the environmental impact.
Non-compostable plastic bags can take centuries to decompose. In the 2000s, many countries and companies began to use different types of biodegradable bags to comply with perceived environmental benefits.
A large number of countries throughout the world have banned the use of plastic bags by grocery stores. In the United States, local manufacturers of plastic bags, would receive financial support to assist them make more durable multi-use bags, that would be sold by grocery stores rather than given away.
The number of plastic bags used worldwide has been estimated to be on the order of 1 trillion annually.