each day. But as the old adage says, nothing comes for free. Here are
some facts to illustrate the actual costs paid by our environment and
society for the fleeting convenience of unlimited, free, single-use
plastic bags. To see the real costs, we must look at the "cradle to
grave" multiple impacts and the effects of each phase of a bag's life.
* If 1 out of 4 Americans used a reusable shopping bag we could save
3 million barrels of oil (105 million gallons)
You can literally eliminate all of the below negatives by just taking
a reusable grocery bag to the grocery store instead of using their
plastic of paper bags. Most places sell them on the spot so you don't
have to worry about finding one.
Phase 1: Production Costs
The production of plastic bags requires petroleum and often natural
gas, both non-renewable resources that increase our dependency on
foreign suppliers. Additionally, prospecting and drilling for these
resources contributes to the destruction of fragile habitats and
ecosystems around the world.
The toxic chemical ingredients needed to make plastic produces
pollution during the manufacturing process.
The energy needed to manufacture and transport disposable bags eats up
more resources and creates global warming emissions.
Phase 2: Consumption Costs
Annual cost to US 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.
Phase 3: Disposal and Litter Costs
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. Once
swallowed, plastic bags choke animals or block their intestines,
leading to an agonizing death.
On land, many cows, goats and other animals suffer a similar fate to
marine life when they accidentally ingest plastic bags while foraging
In a landfill, plastic bags take up to 1,000 years to degrade. As
litter, they breakdown into tiny bits, contaminating our soil and
When plastic bags breakdown, small plastic particles can pose threats
to marine life and contaminate the food web. A 2001 paper by Japanese
researchers reported that plastic debris acts like a sponge for toxic
chemicals, soaking up a million fold greater concentration of such
deadly compounds as PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of the notorious
insecticide DDT), than the surrounding seawater. These turn into toxic
gut bombs for marine animals which frequently mistake these bits for
Collection, hauling and disposal of plastic bag waste create an
additional environmental impact. An estimated 8 billion pounds of
plastic bags, wraps and sacks enter the waste stream every year in the
US alone, putting an unnecessary burden on our diminishing landfill
space and causing air pollution if incinerated.
Recycling requires energy for the collection, processing, etc. and
doesn't address the above issues.
Solution Type: Habit Media