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Facts About the Plastic Bag PandemicShare


Do your part to reduce the staggering amount of plastic bag waste ending up in landfills by shopping our wide selection of reusable shopping bags, totes and market baskets, reusable produce bags, and even more reusable bags!

You can find even more eco-friendly inspiration, such as ways to reduce plastic bag and other disposable plastic waste by checking out our ever-changing selection of best-selling reusable products and new arrivals.

Fast plastic bag facts

• Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide (Earth Policy Institute). Consider China, a country of 1.3 billion, which consumes 3 billion plastic bags daily, according to China Trade News.
• About 2 million plastic bags are used every minute around the world (Earth Policy Institute).
• Approximately 32 million tons of plastic waste are generated annually, representing 12.7% of total municipal solid waste (Environmental Protection Agency).
• Only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled (BBC).
• The average American family takes home 1,500 plastic bags a year (Natural Resources Defense Council).
• Americans use and throw away 100 billion plastic bags every year, which requires 12 million barrels of oil per year to manufacture. (The Wall Street Journal).

Why are plastic bags bad?

• Scientists estimate that every square mile of ocean contains approximately 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it (United Nations Environment Programme).
• A single plastic bag can take up 500 years or more to degrade (Measuring biodegradability, ScienceLearn.org).
• In good circumstances, high-density polyethylene will take more than 20 years to degrade. In less ideal circumstances (landfills or as general refuse), a bag will take more than 500 years to degrade (ScienceLearn.org).
• An estimated 3,960,000 tons of plastic bags, sack and wraps are produced annually. Of those, 3,570,000 tons (90%) are discarded. This is almost triple the amount discarded the first year plastic bag numbers were tracked (1,230,000 tons in 1980) (Environmental Protection Agency).
• Anywhere from .5% to 3% of all bags winds up recycled (BBC, CNN).

Plastic bags' impact on the environment

• The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually at an estimated cost to retailers of $4 billion (The Wall Street Journal).
• According to data from the Ocean Conservancy's annual International Coastal Cleanups, plastic bags are consistently in the top 10 pieces of trash collected on beaches around the world.
• The extremely slow decomposition rate of plastic bags leaves them to drift on the ocean for untold years. According to the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, these plastic bags cause the death of many marine animals (fish, sea turtles, etc.), every year when animals mistake them for food.
• When plastics break down, they don't biodegrade; they photodegrade. This means the materials break down to smaller fragments which readily soak up toxins. They then contaminate soil, waterways, and animals upon digestion (Earth911).
• 10% of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean. 70% of which finds its way to the ocean floor, where it will likely never degrade (United Nations).

The solution? Reusable shopping bags >

• The solution is not a plastic bag ban, which is an emotional response which fails to strike at the heart of the issue; instead of a market-based solution, a ban shifts production to paper bags and compostable bags, both of which have heavy environmental consequences.
• The solution is not switching to paper bags or compostable plastic bags. A study on the life cycle of three types of disposable bags (single-use plastic, paper, and compostable plastic) showed that both compostable plastic and paper bags require more material per bag in the manufacturing process. This means "higher consumption of raw materials in the manufacture of the bags...[and] greater energy in bag manufacturing and greater fuel use in the transport of the finished product. ...The added requirements of manufacturing energy and transport for the compostable and paper bag systems far exceed the raw material use in the standard plastic bag system." (from a peer reviewed Boustead Consulting & Associates report)
• reuseit.com™ supports a multi-pronged approach that discourages the distribution of plastic bags with a tax and a cultural shift away from use-and-toss plastic bags:
     - Plastic Tax: In 2001, Ireland implemented a plastic tax (or PlasTax); the first of its kind, this route acknowledges the fact that people will still occasionally use plastic bags. This market-based     solution discourages daily, thoughtless use of plastic bags by charging a nominal fee per bag at checkout. In a study by the Irish Department of the Environment it was found that plastic bag usage had dropped 93.5%. This breaks down to a drop from 328 to 21 bags per person each year.
     - A cultural shift away from use-and-toss culture: Each reusable bag can eliminate hundreds (if not thousands) of plastic bags.

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