We’ve heard it before. The dire effects of plastic bag consumption have been written about countless times. And we’ve all been bombarded with green tips to bring our own reusable bags. On an intellectual level, we get it: plastic bags suck. But do we really truly, deeply understand the serious implications of them—enough to put our intellectual understanding into action? I feel like if we did maybe even the eco-conscious types would step things up and never, ever use one again. Though I faithfully hang my organic cotton bag on my front door so I don’t forget to grab it when running out for errands, Every now and again I still found myself coming home with the pesky little devils. That’s right, me, caught red-handed with plastic bags on a few desperate occasions—usually unplanned stops or too many items to carry home by hand.
So the impetus behind this post is this eco-flaw of mine—that I imagine others might too be experiencing. And I’m hoping that, a hard, cold look at a few statistics might be enough for me—and others—to absolutely, 100 percent of the time ban the plastic bag.
Each year, approximately 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That’s over one million bags per minute. Billions of them end up as litter each year.
According to MSN, the production of plastic bags creates enough solid waste per year to fill the Empire State Building two and a half times.
The Worldwatch Institute estimates that in the U.S. alone, an estimated 12,000,000 barrels of non-renewable petroleum oil are required to produce the 100 billion bags consumed annually.
That’s over $500,000,000 the country could be saving to put towards clean, green energy. The petroleum used to make only 14 plastic bags could drive a car 1 mile.
Over 100,000 marine animals, including highly intelligent, adorable sea turtles, whales and dolphins, die every year because of plastic bags.
In some parts of the ocean there are six pounds of plastic for every pound of plankton. They can take from 400 to 1,000 years to decompose but their chemicals residues remain for years after that.
So what’s a greenie to do? Until the U.S. follows the lead of San Francisco, China, Ireland, Uganda, South Africa, Russia, and Hong Kong, and targets the reduction of plastic bags using legislature, we each need to make a personal pledge to never use them again.
It might not seem like a lot but considering that the energy being used to make those bags could be used to drive a car almost two miles makes giving up my bad habit easy. Still think two miles sounds insignificant? I don't actually own or drive a car so my quitting bags, virtually off-setts the carbon emissions for somebody who does! All for free, no less.
But to embark on my plastic bag boycott, I'll need a plan. Since hanging my organic cotton tote on the front door isn’t foul-proof or forgetfulness-proof, I’m concluding that I’ll need a bag that I can have on hand at all times.
Why don't you join me? If you need a little extra incentive, how about a five cent discount if you bring your own bags. This could add up: ten bags per trip plus four trips per month equals $24 per year.