Well over a billion single-use plastic bags are given out for free each day. But as the old adage says, nothing is free.
- Production Costs
The production of plastic bags requires petroleum and often natural gas, both non-renewable resources that increase our dependency on foreign suppliers.
- Consumer Costs
Annual cost to US retailers alone is estimated at $4 billion. Who do you think pays those costs? Yes, you, the consumer in the form of higher prices.
- Disposal and Litter Costs
In a landfill, plastic bags take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photo-degrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits polluting our soil, river, lakes and oceans.
- Environmental Impact
Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food. Turtles think the bags are jellyfish, their primary food source. On land, many cows, goats and other animals suffer a similar fate to marine life when they accidentally ingest plastic bags while foraging for food.
- An estimated 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are consumed world-wide every year.
- In the U.S. alone, an estimated 12,000,000 barrels of oil are required to produce the 100 billion consumed annually.
Recycling can fix it, right?
Only 1 to 3% of plastic bags end up getting recycled. If it costs $4,000 to process and recycle 1 ton of plastic bags, which can then be sold on the commodities market for $32 (Jared Blumenfeld, director of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment as reported by Christian Science Monitor), it isn’t going to happen.
What to do?
- Use reusable shopping bags. My grocery store didn’t offer a reusable bag so I bought 3 at a competitor, keep them in the car and use them daily.
- Say ‘NO’ to plastic bags at the check-out if you only have a few items.
- Reuse plastic bags you have accumulated as garbage liners.
- Carry an Ultra Compact bag in your purse, backpack, car, etc. so one is always handy. I carry a Reisenthel – Mini Maxi Shopper Eden, Long Handle bag in my purse.
- Get stores to offer cash credits if you bring in your own bags or switch to a store that does. Mine happily offers $.05 credit for each bag you bring in of your own.
- Open your eyes to how many plastic shopping bags you have at home. Keep count and try to reduce the number you take home.
- Cut down on plastic produce bags by bringing your own reusable produce bags.
- Spread the word. Ask your local shops to stock plastic bag alternatives if they don’t already and encourage friends and family to also get involved.
Related Post: Neither Paper nor Plastic