The High Cost of Plastic Bags
Why we need to reduce our use of plastic bags
The billions of plastic bags we use every year are harming the environment.
Take a look at these facts, courtesy of EarthResource.org on the environmental impact of plastic bags.
a.. Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.
b.. According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year.
c.. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion.)
d.. Plastic bags don't biodegrade, they photodegrade-breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.
e.. Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.
f.. Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year!
g.. Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.
h.. Four out of five grocery bags in the US are now plastic.
i.. The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
j.. Plastic bags are light and hard to contain. Because of their light weight, plastic bags fly easily in wind, float along readily in the currents of rivers and oceans, get tangled up in trees, fences, poles, and so forth, and block the drainage.
k.. Plastic bags are made from a non-renewable natural resource: petroleum. Consequently, the manufacturing of plastic bags contributes to the diminishing availability of our natural resources and the damage to the environment from the extraction of petroleum.
Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris found most often in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation. Marine mammals, seabirds, and sea turtles can become entangled in the bags, and sea turtles can mistake them for food such as jellyfish, then die from starvation resulting from intestinal blockage.
Besides litter, the energy and resources used in producing plastic bags are also an issue. They are made from ethylene gas derived from nonrenewable natural gas or crude oil using water, energy, and refrigeration. Still, according to the American Plastics Council, producing a plastic bag uses about 30% less energy than making a paper bag.
But the EPA official says that no one has fully resolved the paper versus plastic debate. The best choice, he says, is neither--bring your own reusable bag.