Today needs to be a Plastic Bag Free Day! My local council has designated the whole of July as a plastic free time in order to make each of us contemplate what plastic bags do to our environment.International Plastic
This most popular of disposable carrying devices that we pick up from retailers are used for an incredibly short time, usually under 25 minutes, and are then disposed of. They may pass out of our thinking then, but they do not pass out of our world. Plastic bags remain in the world for anywhere from 100-500 years before finally decaying completely, and have a profound impact upon our environment as a result.
Out in the great reaches of the ocean are massive reefs made up of all sorts of plastic waste, and plastic bags play heavily among them. Such is the magnitude of the problem that these great floating islands reach hundreds of miles, like great monuments to mankind’s wastefulness, and disregard for the world upon which we live. International Plastic Bag Free Day gives us an opportunity to remind ourselves, and others, that every action we take, and every bag we dispose of, effects the lives of everyone in the world for generations to come.
I find that the children I teach are very aware of plastic in the oceans, but not so aware of its ramifications elsewhere such as in landfill. Luckily there are some wonderful picture books that can be used to start any discussion on what happens to plastic when it is not disposed of responsibly.
• One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon tells the story of Isatou Ceesaya, a Gambian woman,
who came up with a way to recycle the plastic bags that had littered the landscape in her nation, an act that saved the environment and transformed her community.
• Bag in the Wind by Ted Kooser and Barry Root. This story follows a plastic bag on its journey from a landfill into a series of townspeople's lives. One cold morning in early spring, a bulldozer pushes a pile of garbage around a landfill and uncovers an empty plastic bag a perfectly good bag, the colour of the skin of a yellow onion, with two holes for handles that someone has thrown away. Just then, a puff of wind lifts the rolling, flapping bag over a chain-link fence and into the lives of several townsfolk a can-collecting girl, a homeless man, a store owner not that all of them notice.
• Theo and the Giant Plastic Ball by The United Nations Environment Program and Adrienne Kennaway tells of Theo and his quest to improve at football by making a ball out of discarded plastic bags. This then leads to clearing up his local environment and the realisation that by the community working together they could maintain a cleaner, more healthy environment.
• Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman and Anne Crawley tells of a team of scientists who explore the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where millions of pieces of plastic have gathered, having drifted there from rivers, beaches, and ocean traffic all over the world.
• The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle by Alison Inches and Pete Whitehead is the diary of a plastic bottle. It goes on a journey from the refinery plant, to the manufacturing line, to the store shelf, to a garbage can, and finally to a recycling plant where it emerges into its new life...as a fleece jacket!