Single-use plastic shopping bags are a major source of plastic pollution across the world. While some countries have moved to phase out these bags, many countries still permit their use.

Research published in PLOS ONE by scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa has shown why we need push for a quicker departure from single-use shopping bags globally.

Lead researcher Dr Sarah-Jeanne Royer has discovered that the single-use plastics that often start as giveaways at the supermarket, but then end up on our beaches, are a contributing source of methane and ethylene into the atmosphere.

You may have heard of methane and ethylene before. That’s because they are often talked about in terms of climate change and global warming. That’s right, according to the study, plastic pollution in our environment can potentially lead to harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The various chemicals and compounds that comprise the plastics breakdown in the presence of sunlight and other environmental factors, leading to the gasses being released. The study notes that this is a very poorly understood area of research and much more must be done.

So next time you’re at the supermarket and getting handed a free thick plastic bag, why not say no and opt for a reusable natural fibre bag or box instead.

Read more:

Royer, S-J, Ferron, S., Wilson, S., Karl, D. (2018). Production of methane and ethylene from plastic in the environment. PLOS ONE.