Inside: Plastic Bags: 10 Controversial Facts You Need To Know
I can’t help but remember a commercial from my youth. An American Indian is crying while looking at all the pollution around him. He paddles his canoe to shore only to have a bag of fast food tossed at his feet as one lone tear trickles down his face. The American Indian was Iron Eyes Cody and though he wasn’t an American Indian (his real name was Espera de Corti — an Italian-American who simply got an acting gig) the commercial drove home the point of pollution and what we are doing to the environment. Iron Eyes Cody was still more American Indian than Elizabeth Warren but I digress.
There’s been a meme circulating that says I’m old enough to remember when paper bags were being blamed for the destruction of trees and plastic bags were the answer. I remember this changeover well and people were up in arms the same way many are now.
Recently several states including my home state of New York have banned single-use plastic bags. Being a dog owner my first thought was “now what do I do with all the dog crap in my backyard” when instead my thoughts should have gone to the damage these bags do to our environment.
I’ve never considered myself much of an environmentalist or what some may call a “tree hugger”. However, with this new legislation going into place and my need for a new form of dog cleanup, I started to research some of the controversial facts about plastic bags. They are startling, to say the least.
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Over 100 billion plastic bags are used annually
The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States uses over 100 billion plastic bags annually. It seems like an unfathomable number but if you think about it everything you buy is brought home in some form of plastic bag. Groceries, hardware, clothing, etc.
For every 200 bags that we use, only 1 plastic bag gets recycled. The remainder of those bags winds up flying around your neighborhood or filling up the landfills.
Average family usage
The average family will accumulate over 60+ plastic bags with every four trips to the grocery store. I thought when stores started charging for plastic bags like they did in NY that the number of bags I used might go down but they didn’t. It just became another cost associated with grocery shopping. Let’s face it at $.05 a piece they’re not breaking the bank for most people spending $50 or more a week on groceries.
It takes 500 years or more for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill and that still doesn’t break down completely. That’s quite a few generations that will be experiencing the fallout from bags being used today!
Time of use
The lifespan of a plastic bag may be 500 years but on average we only use the bag itself for 12 minutes. That’s the time to take your items from the store and bring them home. If you’re like me you then take all your plastic bags and stuff them into another plastic bag for future use.
Up to 80% of the plastic that pollutes our oceans comes from land. Pollution includes plastic bags, bottles, and other debris. There have been people trying for years to clear up the ocean pollution. Boyan Slat is a young man who has been dreaming about cleaning up the oceans his entire life and invented the machine that does just that.
Impact of using reusable bags
If just one person started using reusable bags over their lifetime, they would be removing 22,000 plastic bags from the environment. That is one single person. Imagine what we could do if half the population did this?
If you were to tie all the plastic bags in the world together end to end, they would circumvent the Earth 4,200 times.
Sadly, 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually.
How much oil is used to make all these bags
12 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture the amount of bags used annually. I could think of a few better uses for all that petroleum.
So the next time you’re heading out to the store, remember Iron Eyes Cody and bring your reusable bags with you. I recommend The Lawei 12 pack Reusable Grocery Bags from Amazon as they are durable, large and machine washable.
You should always machine wash your reusable bags, especially when using them for meat and vegetables. Machine washing will kill any bacteria that are living on the surfaces of the bags.
Does your state or country have a ban on plastic and how has it affected your shopping habits? Comment below and sign up for weekly updates from Dad On The Edge!