New law on plastic bags spells hope for seas

Clogged: More than eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year. © Getty

Should we ban all plastic? The UK is fighting pollution by charging double for plastic bags. Leaders hope it will reduce waste. But some say we should stop making plastic altogether.

What’s happening

Two million plastic bags are made every minute. Nearly 99% are thrown away after one use. Some end up in landfill. Many end up in the sea, threatening the animals that live there.

Plastic bags are part of a bigger problem. Seabirds often get caught in nets. Sometimes, they eat plastic by mistake.

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Now, a new law could have a solution. Anyone shopping in England and Scotland will have to pay double for their plastic bags. From 1 April, carrier bags will be increased to 10p.

Leaders hope that the law will encourage people to turn to reusable options.

It is not the first time the UK has made laws to reduce single-use plastic. When the 5p charge was introduced in 2014, there was an 80% drop in use.

Plastic pollution is one of the biggest challenges facing the environment. In 2019, a picture of a seal stuck in a frisbee went viral. Experts think that more than half the world’s sea turtles have eaten plastic.

Activists are pleased with the new law, but they say the rules should be stricter.

Should we ban all plastic?

Some say…

Yes! We already know that bans can work. Stopping people using plastic straws prevented thousands of tonnes of plastic waste. A full ban would change life, but it wouldn’t be impossible. Reusable shopping bags, bars of soap and shampoo and biodegradable bin bags are all easy to find. It’s worth making the change to save the planet.

Others think…

We don’t need to. There is no question that plastic is causing us problems by polluting the Earth. But plastic would be hard to ban completely. It’s found everywhere from toys to hospital beds. We shouldn’t ban all plastic, just the things we can’t recycle. Plus, technology means we can now make it from natural materials like seaweed.

You Decide

  1. Could you go for a week without using plastic?

Activities

  1. Make a list of all the objects in the room that have plastic in them. Could you live without them? What alternatives could you use?

Some People Say...

“We have a responsibility to care for our planet. The future of humanity and indeed all life on earth, now depends on us.”

David Attenborough, British naturalist and activist

What do you think?

Word Watch

Landfill
A landfill is a place where waste is kept. Waste is usually buried in landfills. They have a bad smell and look bad. Plus, they can release harmful greenhouse gases like methane into the atmosphere.
Reusable
Something you can use again and again like a Bag for Life or a solid plastic water bottle.
Single-use plastic
Plastic that is used once and then thrown away. The UK has also banned plastic straws and cotton buds, which are very harmful to sea creatures because they are small enough to swallow.
Viral
When something shared via email or social media spreads quickly to millions of people.
Sea turtles
Experts think that sea turtles are particularly at risk from plastic bags because they look like jellyfish underwater, so the turtles try to eat them.
Biodegradable
A material that can be broken down or decomposed by natural, living things. Plastic is not biodegradable. Some of it can last in the environment for hundreds of years.

Subjects

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