How bad can a plastic bag be? 

Officials in Detroit want to be able to ban plastic bags and plastics like forks and knives, but they can’t because of a 2016 state law that keeps municipalities from banning single-use plastics. 

The United States and the United Kingdom are the biggest global producers of plastic waste. That waste could ultimately end up in your blood or lungs. Plastics have a potentially negative impact on fertility, nerve functioning and infant development. 

As the bags break down in the environment, they turn into microplastics that get everywhere. Researchers have found microplastics in the air, rainwater, fish and more. Each year an estimated 22 million pounds of microplastics enter the Great Lakes. 

Research is still developing on any long-term threats plastic poses to human health over the long term, but we do know plastic is made out of toxic chemicals. 

Some harm is not to bodies, but infrastructure. In Detroit, a city affected by severe recurrent flooding, plastic bags can clog storm drains and make flooding worse.

There’s also the climate effect: plastic production and waste generates millions of tons of harmful greenhouse gasses each year, contributing to the rise of average global temperatures and associated climate impacts such as severe drought and extreme heat, heavy flooding and other severe weather. 

Two bills seeking to repeal the ban on banning plastic bags are waiting for a vote in the Michigan House of Representatives committee for Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation. To stay up to date on other City of Detroit environmental discussions, follow the Green Task Force. Not sure how to recycle plastic bags? Here you go.

Jena is a BridgeDetroit's environmental reporter, covering everything from food and agricultural to pollution to climate change.