Plastic? I’m Not So Enthusiastic: A Poem
Financially cheap but environmentally expensive. Easy to access but hard to get rid of. On the outside, plastic bags seem pristine. It's time we uncover what hides underneath.
If you’ve ever been grocery shopping, you’re probably familiar with the clusters of plastic bags that spin endlessly on rotating wheels at each checkout station. You’ve also likely loaded your car with dozens of grocery bags that you ultimately discard. But have you ever wondered what happens to those bags once you throw them away? Unfortunately, the rightly-named “plastic bag problem” is a significant one. Formed from a nonrenewable resource, plastic takes centuries, if not longer, to decompose. Many of our plastics, whether they be from bags or brushes or bottles, end up as litter in aquatic and terrestrial environments, where they can strangle organisms that mistake them for food. Plastic bags in particular are a serious issue because their use is so undeniably widespread in the United States, even despite the regulations that have been put in place by several pioneering states. If plastic bags are such a problem, what can we do to limit their use? And what should we do if using them is our only choice?
In this poem, I give you my answer.
Headed to checkout, I push forward my cart,
Filled with berries and biscuits and breads.
But as my food is stuffed mercilessly in plastic bag after bag,
I ask myself what could be done instead.
Made of barrels of petroleum, a key fossil fuel,
Plastic bags aren’t destined to last.
They clog the intestines of eels and rob whales of their meals,
And take millennia to break down and be passed.
Where do they arrive? Oh, how far they do go,
Travelling to landfills, to lagoons, and to lakes.
They break down into tiny shards that we too often disregard,
And even humans consume them by mistake.
With an average of 365 bags wasted per person per year,
Plastic bags cause more than their share of pollution.
Though in one state they’ve been banned, they remain high in demand,
So it’s about time we find a solution.
Paper bags are one option, both recyclable and robust,
As they’re free or easy to afford.
But they take more energy to create due to their composition and weight,
All at the expense of forests that are seldom restored.
Cloth bags are yet another viable choice,
As they withstand use after use without fail.
And though you may pay a price to buy them once or twice,
Your impact will be smaller in scale.
Sure, cloth bags take the most energy to make,
As cotton needs chemicals to be processed and grown.
But if used in repeat to carry milk jugs or meat,
Their timelessness is bound to be shown.
So, if you’re ever at the store with only plastic bags,
The least you can do is not throw them away.
Repurpose them as holders or turn them into something bolder,
Some stores even recycle used ones (and you don’t have to pay!).
Alas, plastic bags certainly come at a cost,
And burden the world we know and love.
But by exploring other choices, we can use our own voices,
To ensure that our actions rise above.