LETTER: Degrade and biodegrade — two different things

In reference to Al Skiber’s letter, “Plastic Bags are Most Environmentally Friendly”

It takes plastic bags anywhere from 20-1,000 years to degrade — not biodegrade which is very different. Degrade means to break down into smaller pieces, but biodegrade means capable of being broken down (decomposed) rapidly by the action of microorganisms.

Biodegradable substances include food scraps, cotton, wool, wood, human and animal waste, manufactured products based on natural materials (such as paper and vegetable-oil based soaps) and returned to their original, natural state.

So, the plastic bags may be degrading, but they are not gone. Plastics that are degrading are ending up as microplastics in the oceans upon which plankton will feed. Since plankton is the base of the food chain, these microplastics, which also absorb toxic chemicals that are in our oceans, will bioaccumulate in fish and other seafood and end up on our dinner plates in concentrated amounts.

Banning plastic bags will not only reduce our carbon footprint (due to the fact that we don’t need them and there are alternatives), but will most certainly reduce the environmental impact plastic has on our Earth. Both paper and cotton bags biodegrade and cotton bags can certainly be re-used well over 131 times.

Grades 9-12 students

Environmental Club, KSS

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