Stop Plastic Bag Pollution

  • Recycling and composting diverted nearly 70 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in 2000, up from 34 million tons in 1990-doubling in just 10 years.
  • Every ton of paper that is recycled saves 17 trees.
  • The energy we save when we recycle one glass bottle is enough to light a light bulb for four hours.
  • Recycling benefits the air and water by creating a net reduction in ten major categories of air pollutants and eight major categories of water pollutants.
  • In the U.S., processing minerals contributes almost half of all reported toxic emissions from industry, sending 1.5 million tons of pollution into the air and water each year. Recycling can significantly reduce these emissions.

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Paper, Plastic, or Something Better?

bag-for-lifePlastic bags end up as litter that fouls the landscape, and kill thousands of marine mammals every year that mistake the floating bags for food. Plastic bags that get buried in landfills may take up to 1,000 years to break down, and in the process they separate into smaller and smaller toxic particles that contaminate soil and water. Furthermore, the production of plastic bags consume millions of gallons of oil that could be used for fuel and heating.

Is Paper Better Than Plastic?

Paper bags, which many people consider a better alternative to plastic bags, carry their own set of environmental problems. For example, according to the American Forest and Paper Association, in 1999 the U.S. alone used 10 billion paper grocery bags, which adds up to a lot of trees.

Reusable Bags Are a Better Option

But if you decline both paper and plastic bags, then how do you get your groceries home? The answer, according to many environmentalists, is high-quality reusable shopping bags made of materials that don’t harm the environment during production and don’t need to be discarded after each use.

Experts estimate that 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed and discarded annually worldwide—more than a million per minute.

Here are a few facts about plastic bags to help demonstrate the value of reusable bags—to consumers and the environment:

  • Plastic bags aren’t biodegradable. They actually go through a process called photodegradation—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic particles that contaminate both soil and water, and end up entering the food chain when animals accidentally ingest them.
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year. Of those, approximately 100 billion are plastic shopping bags, which cost retailers about $4 billion annually.
  • According to various estimates, Taiwan consumes 20 billion plastic bags annually (900 per person), Japan consumes 300 billion bags each year (300 per person), and Australia consumes 6.9 billion plastic bags annually (326 per person).
  • Hundreds of thousands of whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine mammals die every year after eating discarded plastic bags they mistake for food.
  • Discarded plastic bags have become so common in Africa they have spawned a cottage industry. People there collect the bags and use them to weave hats, bags and other goods. According to the BBC, one such group routinely collects 30,000 bags every month.
  • Plastic bags as litter have even become commonplace in Antarctica and other remote areas. According to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, plastic bags have gone from being rare in the late 1980s and early 1990s to being almost everywhere in Antarctica.

 

Some governments have recognized the severity of the problem and are taking action to help combat it.  Hawaii's State wide ban will go into effect in 2015.

Source: About.com

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