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This is the IELTS Writing Task 2 from March 3rd on the topic of banning plastic bags.

It’s a topical issue because cities and nations all around the world have been enacting laws related to this in recent years.

Read on for a sample answer from a former examiner, analysis, vocabulary practice and some handwritten notes!

For more, check out our other sample answers here: IELTS Sample Answers.

You can also get 2 FREE PDFs with IELTS Task 1 Sample Answers here: HowtodoIELTS Mailing List.

 

 

Sample Answer

Plastic shopping bags are used widely and cause many environmental problems. Some people say they should be banned.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

No one would deny that the plastic bags used in supermarkets and shops have a negative effect on the environment because they do not degrade and end up as litter in our cities or oceans. However, the replacements for plastic bags also carry significant environmental risks. That is why I think plastic bags should not be banned.

The main environmental side effect related to plastic bags is that they pollute both the land and water. An insignificant percentage of people may reuse or recycle plastic bags, but most ultimately litter or throw them in the trash. If they are thrown in the trash, plastic bags will wind up in the ever-increasing number of landfills and contribute to soil pollution. The ones that are simply tossed in the street clog drains in cities and eventually find their way to the sea and entangle marine life. This is why many feel that plastic bags should be banned.

Despite the advantages of banning plastic bags, the solutions for plastic bags are worse than the original problem. Most people who advocate banning plastic bags suggest paper bags (which are biodegradable) or reusable bags that are typically made from cotton or plastic. Both of these replacements are flawed. Paper bags require us to continue clearing forests and also carry a large carbon footprint. Reusable bags are plagued by similar problems. Independent studies have shown that the production of cotton and reusable plastic causes more harm to the environment than disposable plastic bags. Coupled with the fact that reusable bags are more difficult to recycle, their overall effect on the environment is worse.

I do not think overly simplistic restrictions on plastic bags would have the desired positive effect. Rather than thoughtlessly banning them, policy makers should come up with a policy that balances the materials we use for bags in order to produce an overall positive impact on the environment.

 

Sample Answer Analysis

No one would deny that the plastic bags used in supermarkets and shops have a negative effect on the environment because they do not degrade and end up as litter in our cities or oceans. However, the replacements for plastic bags also carry significant environmental risks. That is why I think plastic bags should not be banned.

  • The first sentence simply restates what the general topic is – banning plastic bags. It also includes my main idea for why they should be banned.

  • The second sentence gives the other main idea – why they should not be banned.

  • The third sentence is my opinion – they should not be banned.

The main environmental side effect related to plastic bags is that they pollute both the land and water. An insignificant percentage of people may reuse or recycle plastic bags, but most ultimately litter or throw them in the trash. If they are thrown in the trash, plastic bags will wind up in the ever-increasing number of landfills and contribute to soil pollution. The ones that are simply tossed in the street clog drains in cities and eventually find their way to the sea and entangle marine life. This is why many feel that plastic bags should be banned.

  • The first sentence is a topic sentence that includes my main idea for the whole paragraph (the main problem is pollution for land and water). 

  • The second sentence explains my main idea by saying that most plastic bags are either littered or thrown in the trash.

  • The third sentence explains what happens when they are thrown in the trash and the impact on land.

  • The fourth sentence explains the second problem – that the bags that are littered end up in the ocean.

  • The fifth sentence summarizes that these are the reasons plastic bags should be banned.

Despite the advantages of banning plastic bags, the solutions for plastic bags are worse than the original problem. Most people who advocate banning plastic bags suggest paper bags (which are biodegradable) or reusable bags that are typically made from cotton or plastic. Both of these replacements are flawed. Paper bags require us to continue clearing forests and also carry a large carbon footprint. Reusable bags are plagued by similar problems. Independent studies have shown that the production of cotton and reusable plastic causes more harm to the environment than disposable plastic bags. Coupled with the fact that reusable bags are more difficult to recycle, their overall effect on the environment is worse.

  • The first sentence is a topic sentence that includes my main idea for the whole paragraph (replacing plastic bags is worse than having them).

  • The second sentence explains my opinion by saying that advocates of banning plastic bags usually recommend paper or reusable cotton bags.

  • The third sentence supports my opinion by saying that both solutions are flawed.

  • The fourth sentence supports my main idea by explaining that paper bags also have a negative environmental impact.

  • The fifth sentence shifts to why reusable bags are also not a good solution.

  • The sixth sentence adds that reusable bags are more difficult to recycle and this makes them worse than single-use plastic bags.

I do not think overly simplistic restrictions on plastic bags would have the desired positive effect. Rather than thoughtlessly banning them, policy makers should come up with a policy that balances the materials we use for bags in order to produce an overall positive impact on the environment.

  • The first sentence restates the main ideas from the sample answer as well as my overall opinion. Make sure you have an overall opinion because the question directly asks you whether or not you agree than plastic bags should be banned.

  • The second sentence adds an extra detail (saying that governments should focus on a more balanced policy rather than a ban) that is needed to get above a Band 7 for Task Achievement according to some, but not all, examiners.

 

 

Vocabulary Analysis and Practice

I have highlighted some of the key vocabulary from the sample answer.

Before looking at the definition let’s do some practice!

Answer the following questions about everything in bold:

1. Is it a noun/verb/adjective/adverb? Is it a collocation? A noun-verb collocation? Or verb-noun?

2. What does it mean?

3. Can you think of a synonym?

No one would deny that the plastic bags used in supermarkets and shops have a negative effect on the environment because they do not degrade and end up as litter in our cities or oceans. However, the replacements for plastic bags also carry significant environmental risks. That is why I think plastic bags should not be banned.

The main environmental side effect related to plastic bags is that they pollute both the land and water. An insignificant percentage of people may reuse or recycle plastic bags, but most ultimately litter or throw them in the trash. If they are thrown in the trash, plastic bags will wind up in the ever-increasing number of landfills and contribute to soil pollution. The ones that are simply tossed in the street clog drains in cities and eventually find their way to the sea and entangle marine life. This is why many feel that plastic bags should be banned.

Despite the advantages of banning plastic bags, the solutions for plastic bags are worse than the original problem. Most people who advocate banning plastic bags suggest paper bags (which are biodegradable) or reusable bags that are typically made from cotton or plastic. Both of these replacements are flawed. Paper bags require us to continue clearing forests and also carry a large carbon footprint. Reusable bags are plagued by similar problems. Independent studies have shown that the production of cotton and reusable plastic causes more harm to the environment than disposable plastic bags. Coupled with the fact that reusable bags are more difficult to recycle, their overall effect on the environment is worse.

I do not think overly simplistic restrictions on plastic bags would have the desired positive effect. Rather than thoughtlessly banning them, policy makers should come up with a policy that balances the materials we use for bags in order to produce an overall positive impact on the environment.

Vocabulary Definitions

negative effect (n): causes something bad to happen

degrade (v): something can fall apart, materials like paper and foods can decay

end up (phrasal verb): winds end or finally becomes

litter (n/v): trash that we throw on the street rather than in bins

significant environmental risks (n): big potential problems for the environment

side effect (n): impact or effect that is not intended but happens anyway

insignificant percentage (n): small %

reuse (v): can be used again and again

wind up (phrasal verb): ends up or finally becomes

ever-increasing (adj): continues to increase all the time

landfills (n): big holes in the ground where trash is stored

contribute to (v): adds to or helps make up

clog drains (v): block drains where water flows when it rains

entangle (v): get stuck

original problem (n): the problem from the beginning

advocate (v): support or suggest

biodegradable (adj): fancier way of saying degradable

reusable bags (n): bags that can be used more than once

typically (adv): usually or normally

flawed (adj): not perfect, has mistakes or drawbacks

clearing forests (v): cutting down forests

carbon footprint (n): the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere

plagued (v): cause trouble to or upset by

independent studies (n): research conducted by outside groups

coupled (v): combined

overall effect (n): the total impact

overly simplistic (adj): too simple

thoughtlessly (adv): without a thought

policy makers (n): the people who make laws, members of government

come up with (phrasal verb): create or imagine

balances (v): to make something equal

produce (v): create or make

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Plastic Bag Articles

The plastic bags ban will greatly disadvantage the poor

Taiwanese Ban on Plastic Bags

Kyoto Protocols Failures

Pros and Cons of Plastic Bags

Why You Should Love Plastic Bags

Beautiful Plastic Bags

Do Plastic Bag Bans Work?

 

 

Plastic Bag Videos

MAN

The Impact of Plastic Bags

Should Plastic Bags be Banned?

 

 

Example Notes

Here are some notes I made about plastic bags (check out more on our Instagram page)!

 

Now it’s Your Turn! Comment below on our IELTS Sample Answer:

Do you think plastic bags should be banned? Or should we start using more of them?

 


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