Well over a billion single-use plastic bags are given out for free each day in the world. 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:
The production and transportation of plastic bags requires petroleum and often natural gas, both non-renewable resources that increase our dependency on foreign suppliers.
The consumption costs 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.
The littering of plastic bags affect hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals who die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food. 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.
The disposal of plastic bags in a landfill can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. As litter, they breakdown into tiny bits, contaminating our soil and water. An estimated 8 billion pounds of plastic bags enter the waste stream every year in the US alone, putting an unnecessary burden on our diminishing landfill space or potentially causing air pollution if they are incinerated.
What can WE do about it?
Use cloth reusable shopping bags. We can each save six bags a week or 22,176 bags in our lifetime from going to the landfill or ocean garbage patch!
Dispose of all of your unused plastic bags at local recycling drop off locations.