Should Plastic Bags be Outlawed?

Should we ban plastic bags?

Warmer questions

  1. How often do you see plastic in your everyday life?
  2. What measure does are there to stop the spread of plastic in the environment?

Reading section

A disposable good?

When you buy those apples at the market they come in a plastic case. When you take them home you put them in a plastic bag. When you get home you realise that your kitchen has plastic everywhere. It’s almost impossible to live without it. In facts books have been written to find ways to live free from plastic – yes, it’s honestly that hard. New studies have shown that they can contaminate the seas and rivers with chemicals as they break down in the environment.

People should make proper choices to reduce their impact on the Earth. However, many countries and government currently don’t make such distinction and allow the use of mass use plastics. It was also found that 91% of plastics are not recycled and simply dumped into the oceans. So, on environmental it makes sense to do so, but it creates problems about how we find alternatives, of which there are currently none.

Groups opposed to bag bans have argued that while litter does contribute to the death of thousands of marine animals each year, it is not fair to single out plastic bags as the cause. The “plastic bags aren’t only to blame” argument goes on to explain that lost or abandoned fishing gear is also responsible for the wrongful death of marine animals and a plastic bag ban does not address the entire problem. This “all or nothing” rationale is not only weak, but it is also short-sighted.

Just because there is a wide variety of litter in our oceans does not mean we should sit by and not attempt to begin to fix the plastic problem. Solving parts of a problem—with products like eco-friendly reusable bags—ultimately serves to contribute to a greater solution.

Opposing groups have also claimed that cleaning up plastic bag litter is not that expensive and municipalities that claim financial savings as a result of implementing a ban are not portraying the numbers accurately. To that, we say that no matter how much money is spent cleaning up litter, it is too much. When money is directed to cleaning up litter, that means there is less money to fix infrastructure and build communities.

Questions arising from this are:

  1. If plastic bags are dangerous, why can’t all plastics be banned?
  2. What alternatives to plastic do we have?
  3. What will happen to the plastic already in the ocean?
  4. Who will pay for this?
  5. Who is responsible for the plastic in oceans?
  6. How can it be prevented in the first place?

Video: How much plastic is in the ocean?

Great little video by ‘It’s Okay To Be Smart’ talking about nations which are seeking a total ban on plastics and the effects of plastics on the planet.

Pre-teach Vocab

  1. Filth (Noun, dirty or not clean)
  2. Garbage (Noun, American English for rubbish)
  3. Technique (Noun, a method)
  4. Fleet (Noun, a group of ships or objects on the water)


Task: Comprehension questions. Before watching the video make a guess to the questions below. Once done, watch the video and then check if your guess was right.

  1. In 1992 a ship sank and released a cargo of what?
  2. Where did the cargo go?
  3. How is plastic broken down?
  4. What is the first synthetic plastic?
  5. How many tons of plastic end up in the ocean?
  6. What are the six Rs?

  1. red beaver, green frogs and yellow duck plastic toys.
  2. Alaska and even the UK. Most stayed floating in the ocean.
  3. Sunlight small animals
  4. Bakelite
  5. 8 million tons
  6. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink, Repair, Refuse

The advantages of outlawing plastic

  1. By banning plastic bags, other manufacturers will have the chance to develop new types of products and materials for use in bags. This can help the economy.
  2. The cost of products in shops will become cheaper. Shops no longer need to provide free bags and off-set the cost by increasing prices of what they sell.
  3. Plastic cannot be absorbed by the environment. It takes hundreds of years for plastic to be broken up. Even so, micro-plastics are still dangerous for human health and animals.
  4. Picking up litter costs money.
  5. Marine life will improve.
  6. Plastic litter causes damage to gutters and sewer systems that need extra maintenance to keep them working.
  7. Plastic bag bans reduce the need for petroleum: Banning plastic bags will minimize the dependency on the limited non-renewable resource.
  8. Decrease the mosquito population: Discarded plastic bags collect rainwater and create a breeding ground for mosquitos, some of which could carry the West Nile Virus or Triple E Virus.

The disadvantages of outlawing plastic

  1. Plastic bans manufacturers scale back: Bans often lead plastic bag manufacturers to scale back business and may lead to layoffs.
  2. Upfront cost to shoppers: Plastic bag bans will require shoppers having to purchase reusable bags, which can range from $1 and up.


So, what do you think? Have you tried getting rid of plastics in your daily life? Did it work? Comments below.

Further discussion: Topics on feminism, controversial topics, taboos, religion, and UBI