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How Do Poly Plastic Bags Help the Environment?

Plastic is an important material for many sectors, right from the automotive industry to construction and textiles. As a man-made material that’s sturdy, lightweight and flexible, it can be customized and processed in many ways in order to deliver specific benefits for each application.

We rely on plastic for insulation in our homes and offices, mix it with solvents to create paints or adhesives, turn it into thin fibers for nylon, fiber-fill and other synthetic fabrics, mold it into bottles, bulletproof vests, intricate components and parts for vehicles, and even heavy-duty frames for space stations and other structures!

Why Do We Need Plastic Bags?

Plastic bags get a lot of flak, but with modern materials technology, plastic bag manufacturers can ensure that their products are reusable, recyclable and energy-efficient. This offers tremendous benefits for the environment as well as people using them.

Here’s how poly plastic bags may actually help the environment:

  • They Reduce Atmospheric Emissions – Oil and coal industry by-products form the primary components for poly bags, and there are tremendous environmental benefits when these are stored and used instead of being burned. As compared to paper bags and other packaging materials, the manufacturing process for plastic bags releases up to 50% less carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
  • They Consume Fewer Resources – The polymers that act as raw material for plastic bags are often made with by-products of the coal, oil and natural gas industry, as well as renewable materials such as polylactic acid, cellulose acetate, etc. Even if they are created with petroleum, the manufacturing process for plastic bags uses up to 70% less energy than similar processes for alternative packaging materials.
  • They Can Be Reused Almost Endlessly – Despite being lighter than paper bags and other alternatives, poly bags are generally sturdier and less prone to damage. They are more resistant to liquids and chemicals, environmental factors, and other forms of exposure, so they have very high reusability. They’re not only reusable, but multi-usable as well, ideal for grocery shopping, shipping packages in the mail and much more.
  • They Are More Likely to Be Reused – Not only can poly bags be used over and over again, but consumers are more likely to do so. Most people don’t think twice before tossing a paper bag into the recycling bin, but they will generally hold on to a plastic bag and reuse it. Whether for storing items at home or transporting them from one place to another, the plastic bag rarely gets thrown away after a single use!
  • They Are Recycled into Many Forms – Just as they can be reused in various ways, plastic bags can also be recycled into a countless array of new products. For instance, recycled plastic is widely used in the construction industry, for the production of composite lumber, insulation and other synthetic construction materials. Poly bags can be sent to processing plants to be recycled into raw material for new bags as well.
  • They Help to Cut Down on Litter – Paper bags easily split and tear when they’re used to collect garbage, spreading their contents around litter bins and dumpsters. Since poly bags are sturdier and less susceptible to moisture and other environmental factors, they help to keep litter contained and reduce trash pollution. They also deter pests to some extent, especially flies and other insects that collect around garbage containers.

How Are Plastic Bags Manufactured?

Poly plastic bags are manufactured using oil or natural gas components that are converted into hydrocarbon monomers and then linked together to form a polymer known as polyethylene. This may be blended with additives to provide certain properties such as light/heat/bacterial resistance, color, texture, etc.

This raw material is turned into polyethylene resin pellets and sent to a manufacturing facility, where it is melted, extruded, expanded and flattened into a film. Depending on the plastic bag making machine used, the film can then be shaped, cut and sealed according to the manufacturer’s requirements.

The manufacturing procedure for plastic bags hasn’t changed much, but new materials and techniques have opened up many opportunities over the years. We’re excited to see what the future holds for this modern marvel!

Author Bio: Mohan Naik oversees the digital marketing for XL Plastics, a leading name in the field of plastic converting machinery. On a mission to help entrepreneurs make a high quality choice that delivers value, he efficiently turns even the most technical topics into interesting and engaging content that even a layman can comprehend. He writes to educate his audience and skillfully uses marketing to incite interest even in the most passive of readers. He stays updated with the latest trends and innovations in the industry and is quick to share that with his readers.

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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