Should Plastic Bags Be Encouraged for Grocery and Shopping Purposes

Topics: Polyethylene, Plastic recycling, Linear low-density polyethylene Pages: 5 (1616 words) Published: July 1, 2011
Research Question: Should the use of plastic bags be encouraged for grocery and shopping purposes? 1.0 Introduction and chemistry background
Plastic or its scientific name polyethylene is a type of polymer. Polymers are defined as a large molecules consisting of specific small repeating monomers that combine or react together. In this case, plastic or polyethylene is made up of small monomers called ethylene (ethene). Ethylene molecules react and combine together through addition reaction/polymerization (double bond of ethylene breaks in the reaction) and finally form polyethylene. Basically, there are three types of plastic grocery bags made from polyethylene which are High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) and Linear Low Density Polyethylene (LLDPE). The main difference between the three types is the degree of branching of the polymer chain. Both HDPE and LLDPE composed of linear chains, while LDPE has branched chains (Lajeunesse, 2004). The more the branching of polymer chain, the lower the tensile strength and crystallinity of it. This responsible for the soft and transparent features of LDPE, while HDPE and LLDPE have stiff condition and not transparent as they are stronger and have higher crystallinity than LDPE (Cogte, 2009).

Figure 1: Polymerization reaction of Ethene to form polythene (polymer)

Plastic bags are very common in this modern world and have been used widely in our daily life especially in shopping purposes. Due to its highly convenient, cheap and strong features, plastic bags appeal to many people either customers or the seller as the most effective way in delivering goods (such as foods) from the store to home (Kinnon, 2008). Although plastic bags are very convenient to use, there are several drawbacks that come from the usage of it mainly towards the environment and social aspect and this is getting worsen with the overuse of it. From this, plastic bags are being questioned whether the usage of it should be encouraged or not for shopping purposes and this essay will discuss about it and its possible solutions. 2.0 The benefits of using plastic bags

Using plastic bags for grocery and shopping purposes have a number of benefits either towards the consumers or the retailers. It is believed that plastic bags are the most reliable way to carry goods than its paper counterpart. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that American consumers use about 100 billion of plastic bags annually, while only 10 billion paper bags are being used by them annually. According to Ketcham (n.d.), the plastic bags offer two key benefits towards consumers and the first one is that plastic bag is more long-lasting and durable than paper bag. This is because they are less prone to tear and very useful during rain time to protect the things like foods from the rain. Moreover, it is easy to carry around as most of them have handle to carry it unlike paper bags. Secondly, plastic bags are reusable for a number of purposes. After it has been used, most people reuse it as trashcan liners and also to package other miscellaneous things. In addition, most retailers find that plastic bags are cost effective and convenient for storage. Not just the plastic bags are available in bulk purchases; it only costs for a cent per piece. While typical paper bags cost for about five cent per piece (Ketcham, n.d.). It is also convenience for storage as it requires less space than other type of bags (e.g.: paper). 3.0 The drawbacks of using plastic bags

With the increasing of usage of plastic bags, several drawbacks have arisen mainly towards the environment, marine wildlife and also towards human. The major problem caused by plastic bags is the litter problem. According to Williamson (2003), 96 percent of all plastic bags were being thrown instead of recycling. Due to its light weight and can easily travel by wind, they can be found everywhere throughout the landfills and this has...
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