Journey of a Plastic Bag

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Hey, it’s Toula, and this is my story. Just to know me more, I’m an average-sized purple colored plastic bag and I love being who I am, even if I was made of polyethylene -I, usually, don’t approve of products derived from refined oils and natural gases-. In the first place, humans fabricated me because I’m flexible, pliable, and durable. I love to travel places! That’s my hobby.

From the day I left the factory, I waited in a supermarket under a pile of siblings, family and friends, getting ready to explore the world. It was not long before the plastic bag on top of me was taken. I knew it was my turn next and I was excited! In no more than two seconds, I felt the touch of a tough hand getting hold of me and stuffing me with lots of carton bottles and chips’ bags. I could feel that my life was getting better; that at last, I would see the world.

I was left for 10 minutes in the dark at the back car, and then a softer hand carried me to a beautiful kitchen. I thought of all the nice smells I’ll enjoy just by sitting in the corner of that place and started daydreaming when just two minutes later I was emptied and got stretched over a bin. And then I started to get filled with.. litter? Why? I’m supposed to have a better life than this!

At the end of the day, a knot was tied over my head, and I was collected by a hardworking man who stuffed me in between many other plastic bags inside a truck. Happy was I to be among my friends once again, anxious was I about the unknown future we were about to face. A bit later, I reached the place I heard a lot about from older members of our family. The most famous among my people. Manshiyat Nasser – home for millions of us.

We know this place is a better home than the horrible Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I’m telling you: it’s huge! No one could ever save all the plastic bags that ended up in the water there. Collecting them is an impossible mission, and now their destiny is to lie there, breaking down bit by bit but never completely degrading, covering 1.6 million square kilometers.That’s the size of 2 Texas-es and 3 France-s! No plastic wants to end up floating in the middle of the ocean, forming this huge island between America and Japan…that’s such a horrible fate!

 

A lot of garbage floating on the ocean

Photo Courtesy of Forbes
https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/garbage-city

Map illustrating Texas in the US

This is the size of Texas!
Photo Courtesy of nationsonline.org

I’m so thankful I ended up in Manshiyat Nasser on the outskirts of Moqattam Hills, where 60,000 Zabbaleen -meaning Garbage people in Egyptian Arabic- live on collecting, sorting and recycling garbage. Simple were the short buildings, narrow were the streets where every inch was packed with millions of huge sacks that I rightly guessed were filled with garbage. I thought that was the end of my story, and I gave up. Can any hope be found here?

Mansheyet Nasser full of huge garbage bags

Photo Courtesy of Daily mail
Ilya Stepanov / Caters

Suddenly, a woman’s hand grabbed me. It was always the women who sorted the garbage into different categories after the men collect it from all over Cairo. She chose me from among all the others; she certainly got attracted to the color of my skin. I was then separated from plastic bags of other colors.

A woman sorts garbage in Mansheyet Nasser

Photo Courtesy of waste4change
Scott Nelson

I didn’t know it was shower time! I was washed, cleaned and sanitized and felt as fresh as new. And then I was combined with a beautiful blue plastic bag, and together we’ve gone through a long and beautiful journey, becoming just one sheet. I still remember the minutes I’ve gone through heating. I felt the pressure of the heating machine, fusing me with the other bag. One of the hardest moments in my life! But now, I do not mind. I just consider it a turning point in fulfilling my dream.

I was sent to a workshop altogether with many other sheets –  all fresh, clean and colorful. There, many craftsmen were using their talents, creativity and machines to sew us together. I felt a machine’s needle pierce my sides but I couldn’t imagine the end result. That’s what we call upcycling: getting transformed from a plastic bag to become a one-of-a-kind backpack, that was soon to be bought by a traveler. I only saw how I finally looked when a girl tried me in front of a mirror.

And I knew that, finally, this is my chance to see the world again!

 

Check our references:

How are plastic bags made?

Plastic bags consumption facts

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

300-Mile Swim Through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will collect data on plastic pollution

Cairo’s Garbage City

The Zabaleen: Cairo’s Garbage Collectors

 

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