It’s easy to get nostalgic for the good old days. The days when people made plans instead of texting. The days when you and your friends had wildly unfactual debates at the bar instead of getting on Wikipedia and ending the contest outright. But there were downsides too, like dirty payphones. And Carrot Top. And nobody is going to ask you for your beeper number anymore which is great. It seems that in Britain the age old question – “Paper or plastic?” – will go the way of land lines and Pogs. But unlike the disappearance of Pogs, getting rid of plastic bags is a good thing.

The Problem With Plastic

The widespread use of plastic began around 60 years ago and since then we have been using it for – well just about everything. We drink out of plastic straws, we package our goods in it, and then, we put those plastic packages in plastic bags to take them home. The problem with plastic is there is no good way to dispose of it. While there are recycling programs in place, it is estimated that there are around 270,000 tons of plastic are floating on the ocean’s surface. This is a huge problem. The production of plastic bags results in huge amounts of carbon emissions and allowing plastics to break down in our oceans puts 12 terrifying chemicals into our water. The plastics in our oceans directly threaten over 700 species of marine animals with extinction and degrade unique habitats globally. One study in the Netherlands found that of a group of seabirds tested, 96 percent had plastic in their stomachs, with an average of 23 plastic pieces per bird. Sea turtles will confuse plastic bags with jellyfish and eat them. The plastics can lodge them selves in the turtle’s digestive system and cause internal bleeding and starvation. Whales eat plastic bags as well, and the result is the same – death.

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Great Britain’s Solution

Great Britain recognized the threat that plastic bags pose to our oceans and decided to take action. They imposed a small tax of 5 pence on plastic bags at all of their supermarkets and the measure proved to be incredibly effective. The BBC reported that over the past year they have seen a 50 percent reduction in the amount of plastic bags found during beach clean ups. While The Marine Conservancy Society estimates that plastic waste in the island’s oceans has been reduced by around 40 percent. This was only in the span of one year. It is safe to say that Great Brittain’s plastic bag tax was a wild success and while there is still more work to be done – taxing plastic bags has proven to be an extremely powerful weapon in the fight again plastic pollution.

But Great Brittian is not the only nation using plastic bags. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States consumes around 380 billion plastic bags a year and four out every five bags we take home from the supermarket are plastic. 85 percent of these bags are not recycled and many of them their way into our oceans. So until the day when we not longer have to answer the question – “Paper our plastic?” – be conscientious and choose paper. This simple choice can make a huge difference.

If you’re looking to cut plastic out of your life, join One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!

Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.

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Image source:Rich Carey/Shutterstock