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PLASTIC BAG FACTS

  • Each year the United States uses 30 billion plastic and 10 billion paper grocery bags, requiring approximately 14 million trees and 12 million barrels of oil.
     

  • Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime. The bag will pay for itself if your grocery store offers a discount per bag for bringing your own bags.
     

  • Introduced just over 25 years ago, the ugly truth about our plastic bag addiction is that society's consumption rate is now estimated at well over 500,000,000,000 (that's 500 billion) plastic bags annually, or almost 1 million per minute.  In a landfill, these single-use bags will take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
     

  • According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags.
     

  • Four out of five grocery bags in the US are now plastic.
     

  • Plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food.
     

  • The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.

  • Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime. The bag will pay for itself if your grocery store offers a discount per bag for bringing your own bags.

  • Annual cost to U.S. retailers alone is estimated at $4 billion. When retailers give away free bags, their costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.  (According to The Wall Street Journal, Target, the second-largest retailer in the U.S., purchases 1.8 billion bags a year.)

WHAT ABOUT RECYCLING PLASTIC BAGS?

  • It is estimated that only 3 percent of plastic bags are recycled.
     

  • According to San Francisco Environment Department spokesperson Mark Westlund promoting recycling is not the best solution.  "We've had in store recycling in San Francisco for over 10 years, and it's never really been successful," says Westlund, who estimates that the city achieved only a 1 percent recycling rate of plastic bags at the stores. "People have to pack up the bags, bring them into the store and drop them off. I think you'd be more inclined to bring your own bag…”

WHAT ABOUT PAPER BAGS

  • It takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag. (Film and Bag Federation, Society of the Plastics Industry)
     

  • To transform virgin timber into paper, manufacturers consumer more fresh water than any other industry on the planet, and in return emit significant quantities of dioxin and other hazardous materials. (Environmental Protection Agency)
     

  • In 1999, 14 million trees were cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans.

REUSABLE BAGS

  • Sturdy cloth bags make the best shopping bags. Large cloth totes and smaller cloth bags can be reused thousands of times, which more than justifies their initial cost. According to the Sierra Club, “A sturdy, reusable bag needs only be used 11 times to have a lower environmental impact than using 11 disposable bags.”
     

  • A second best alternative to cloth bags and a transitional step toward eventually using only cloth bags is to reuse the plastic bags you already have as long as possible. Plastic produce bags can be reused as many as 50 times, and can be rinsed clean and dried. When your remaining plastic bags become completely worn out, recycle them.