International Plastic Bag Free Day (July 3): History, Theme, Celebrations and Meaning to Our Environment
Photo: Twitter

International Plastic Bag Free Day, celebrated on July 3, is a global initiative that aims to eliminate the use of plastic bags. Plastic bags may seem like a grocery shopping convenience, but they are also a huge strain on the environment. It can take up to 500 years for plastic bags to disintegrate, so they make up a large portion of what stays in our landfills and pollutes our waterways.

International Plastic Bag Free Day (July 3): History

For most of our history, single-use products were blasphemous. But through the end of the Industrial Revolution and into the modern era, plastic became a cheap and plentiful resource. Plastic bags are just one perfect example.

From birth to ban, the history of the plastic bag has impacted our world. In 1933, polyethylene, the most commonly used plastic, was created by accident at a chemical plant in Northwich, England. While polyethylene had been created in small batches before, this was the first synthesis of the material that was industrially practical, and it was initially used in secret by the British military during World War II.

International Plastic Bag Free Day (July 3): History, Theme, Celebrations and Meaning to Our Environment
Photo: Zero Waste Europe

By 1965, the one-piece polyethylene shopping bag was patented by the Swedish company Celloplast. Designed by engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin, the plastic bag quickly begins to replace cloth and plastic in Europe. After controlling 80 percent of the bag market in Europe, plastic bags went abroad and were widely introduced to the United States in 1979. Plastic companies began to aggressively market their product as superior to paper and reusable bags.

It wasn’t until 1997 that sailor and researcher Charles Moore discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest of several gyres in the world’s oceans where immense amounts of plastic waste have accumulated, threatening marine life. It was discovered that plastic bags are notorious for killing sea turtles, which mistakenly think they are jellyfish and eat them.

Bangladesh becomes the first country in the world to implement a ban on thin plastic bags in 2002 after it was found that plastic bags played a key role in clogging drainage systems during disastrous flooding. Other countries quickly followed suits, such as South Africa, Rwanda, China, Australia, and Italy.

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International Plastic Bag Free Day looks for safer alternatives to demonstrate that a world without the use of so much plastic is possible. It is part of the Break Free from Plastic Movement, which began in September 2016, and has been joined by nearly 1,500 different organizations. The movement is looking for solutions to the plastic pollution crisis, to make the planet safer for humans, the environment and wildlife.

International Plastic Bag Free Day (July 3): Significance

There are a lot of good ways to celebrate, and the easiest requires a simple resolution on your part. The simplest thing you can do is choose paper or cloth over plastic, or even better bring your own bags to retailers to pick up goods. If you own a business yourself, initiate a program to encourage your customers to bring in their own reusable bags, and stop offering plastic bags.

The marine ecosystem, in particular, is suffering terribly as a result of our plastic use. More than 31 species of marine life are known to have ingested marine plastic whilst over 100 species of sea birds have ingested plastic artefacts. Over 250 species have become entangled in plastic, whilst entanglement rates of approximately eight per cent have been discovered in some sea lion and seal species. It is one of the most urgent threats faced by all of us.

International Plastic Bag Free Day (July 3): History, Theme, Celebrations and Meaning to Our Environment
Photo: Designnews

Plastic pollution is a global catastrophe and it is a man-made one. By estimation, 500 billion plastic bags are used on a global scale. This has an extremely detrimental effect on the environment, wildlife, and quality of human life indeed. This International Plastic Bag Free Day 2020, take a step that will prove beneficial for future generations as well.

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International Plastic Bag Free Day (July 3): Celebrations

International Plastic Bag Free Day is dedicated to raising awareness about the very real and pressing issues of plastic pollution. Every day, we learn more about how plastic is affecting this planet and how conglomerates are cutting down on plastic. But as an individual, you need to do your part too. We need to think it through when using plastic bags in regard to what it does to our environment and how it will wreak havoc in the coming years. Plastic bags remain in the world for anywhere from 100-500 years before finally decaying completely. It is imperative that we collectively take action. Here is some activities to observe this day:

Stop using plastic bags.

The best way to celebrate is also the easiest to do. Wherever you find yourself on July 3rd, from the grocery store to the park, to a restaurant, make sure not to use and not to ask for any plastic bags.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle!

Another spectacular way to celebrate is to recycle and upcycle the things around you. Even if you have some plastic bags lying around, don’t throw them away. You can use them as extra trash bags or an alternative to a lunchbox as just a few examples.

Practice your green thumb.

Use your day to give Mother Nature a helping hand (or thumb). It’s the perfect time to finally plant a new tree or plant some nice flowers. The planet and the wildlife around your house will thank you!

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5 IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT PLASTIC BAG USAGE

1. Plastic decays slowly.

It takes over 700 years for single-use plastic to begin decomposing, and 1000 years to degrade completely.

2. Plastic is directly harmful to wildlife.

In 2008, a beached sperm whale was found with almost 50 pounds of single-use plastic in its stomach.

3. 5 trillion plastic bags are produced annually.

If placed next to each other, the bags would wrap around the entire planet seven times.

4. Very few of them are recycled.

According to some reports, only 1% to 3% of plastic bags are recycled globally.

5. Plankton have become outnumbered.

In the Northern Pacific, there are 6x more single-use plastic particles than plankton.

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