Now If That’s What a Plastic Bag Did to My Bike…

The effects of plastic bags on wildlifeMy inner workings were mangled.

The plastic carrier bag had got into every part of the system, clogging up the mechanism so it spluttered along it fits and starts. It kept going a few more metres but in the end gave up all together and had to stop, totally useless and unable to go on.

Now I’m talking about my bike, but think of that as an animal, and it’s insides.

It got in my gears

The other night I was cycling home from work and a wayward plastic bag got caught in my gears. The bike became jolty, it had lost it’s umph and I looked down but couldn’t see anything wrong with the wheels. I kept going a bit further knowing something was wrong but unable to tell what until it gave up all together and I was marooned on the pavement somewhere between Clapham Junction and Vauxhall. Once dismounted I quickly saw the white plastic entwined in my gears.

It sounds weird but I keep thinking about it.

I crouched on the side of the road and picked it all out, bit by bit. My fingers were covered in grease and oil and as I pulled bits out they shredded, leaving smaller bits behind. It was all over within 10 minutes.  A mound of shredded plastic covered in black grease was piled up beside me. There were a few bits I couldn’t get to, but I decided to leave it and get on. I needed to shift the gears to get it out.

I’ve never been a mad conservation fanatic, but I’ve always hated the cavalier attitude ‘we’ have to carrier bags. At work we’re about 50 steps from Waitrose but I regularly see colleagues come back with one or two items hoarded in yet another bag, obviously unable to carry them all that way in their hands back to the office.

That actually happens to animals.

If that’s what a plastic bag does to my gears, it’s horrific to imagine what it does to the insides of the thousands of animals who consume them every year thinking they’re food. They won’t be able to pick them out of their system in 10 minutes. Clueless creatures nibble, bite, gobble up plastic bags both my mistake and intentionally – totally unaware of the damage they could cause. In no time at all it’s wrapped around their insides and slowly their organs will suffocate or they’ll die from plastic poisoning.

The effects of plastic bags on wildlife

When I was in Nice a few years ago I saw a bird with a lid of a takeaway coffee cup round it’s neck. The hole had been poked through and it was squawking about obviously very distressed. No one could get close enough to help it out without it flapping us away with his wings. I imagine it had made him too heavy to fly off, although I don’t know for sure. This case might not have even been littering, that bird could have easily stuck his head in a bin for a tasty bite and ended up literally with a noose around his neck.

Let’s stop being so wasteful.

We just don’t need a new cup every time we have a coffee, or a new bag for every over-packaged thing we take home – we need to learn to say no to all this, or at least carry a coffee cup or reusable bag with us. The amount of packaging we waste and don’t recycle is just ridiculous.

I think subconsciously I was still thinking about it when I covered the story of Boyan Slat for He heads up a team of over 100 and says he’s found an answer to the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch. He’s 19 and so has actually devoted his life to the cause. I really hope he’s able to see it through and I’ve given him my support.

The effects of plastic bags on wildlife

I placidly supported the demise of carrier bags before, but seeing the bag intwined with my gears and having my overactive brain flash to some creatures organs has disturbed me. I’m going to actively cut the amount of unnecessary plastic in my life. I really hope after reading this you’ll give it a second thought too.

Join the Break the Bag Habit Campaign.

I’ve been reading about the Break the Bag Habit campaign from the Marine Conservation Society. Here are a few of the most interesting facts…

  • Over the past two years, the number of carrier bags used in England has increased despite repeated Government calls for retailers to reduce the numbers they give out.
  • Last year businesses in the UK issued plastic bags at a rate of 254 a second.

A few disturbing images if you still don’t get it

The photos used in this are not mine: | | |

The effects of plastic bags on wildlife

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  1. by Emily Ray on June 15, 2014  11:08 am Reply

    One of the best blogs I've read recently. I'm always conscious about my use of plastic bags, but - realistically - probably use them far more than is necessary. It just breaks my heart when I see pictures of animals affected by our rubbish :( x

  2. Pingback : Blog Reads, a cool job and my next trip to Slovenia | The Travel Hack

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