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Plastic Bag Externalities

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Plastic Bag Externalities
Audrey Lee
ECO305
January 2, 2014 Positive Externalities The positive externalities of plastic bags include the ability to be recycled into other plastic products, lower transportation costs, helping to prevent contamination of hazards. Plastic bags have affected the economy by making the bags cheaper than other bags so they are more readily available. Plastic bags produces 70% less air pollution and 50 times less water pollution than in production than paper bags, and plastic bags require less energy to produce from start to finish; therefore less money is spent on cleaning up the pollution. Plastic bags have greatly helped to reduce the contamination in the health field by allowing healthcare workers to keep contaminated agents from spreading, thus lower the cost of healthcare this is especially helpful in third world countries. Negative Externalities The negative externalities of plastic bags include the following: most plastic bags end up in the landfills, oceans or as litter, all chemicals used to create plastic bags are toxic, plastic bags take 20 to 1000 years to decompose, and kill animals. One of the biggest plastic bag externalities is that plastic bags have a short use life, they are generally used for the short time from the store to home and then discarded. The discarded bags take 20 to 1000 years to decompose but most landfills today are not designed to decompose the products being put into them, so these bags never get decomposed so the environmental effects are felt long after the person who used the plastic has past on. Plastic bags that are littered in the oceans cause deaths of the animals that live in the oceans from the endangered turtles, but ingestion, to baby seals that get stuck in the plastic so they are easily caught, to the whales and sharks that ingest those seals. Plastic bags are also a magnet for chemicals such as PCB’s in the water and making them even more deadly to the wildlife that ingests them and the decaying carcass allows the bag to be released back into the environment. The cost of cleaning up the environment can not be compounded because we can not truly determine the long term environmental effects of the chemicals in plastics on the environment. The process of making the plastic bags also produces hazards chemicals that have been known to cause lower sperm counts in men, even infertility.
References
Planet Ark. www.planetark.com [Retrieved March 5, 2008]
Plastic Bags: Friends or Foe. www.plasticbageconomics.com [Retrieved March 3, 2008]
Rubbish bags pay rural women's way. news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2310657.stm [Retrieved March 4, 2008]

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