Single-use bags, both paper and plastic, represent a huge threat to the environment. This threat is not only related to the sheer volume of them ending up in landfill, but also to the resources needed to produce, transport and (occasionally) recycle them and the emissions resulting from these processes. Single-use plastic bags are also well known for their interference in ecosystems and the part they play in flood events, where they clog pipes and drains.
Plastic Bag Facts
- Approx. 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year. That’s more than 1,200 bags per US resident, per year.
- Approx. 100 billion of the 380 billion are plastic shopping bags.
- An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags.
- Only 1 to 2% of plastic bags in the USA end up getting recycled.
- Thousands of marine animals and more than 1 million birds die each year as a result of plastic pollution.
- The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean.
- Plastic bags are often mistakenly ingested by animals, clogging their intestines which results in death by starvation. Other animals or birds become entangled in plastic bags and drown or can’t fly as a result.
- Even when they photo-degrade in landfill, the plastic from single-use bags never goes away, and toxic particles can enter the food chain when they are ingested by unsuspecting animals.
- Greenpeace says that at least 267 marine species are known to have suffered from getting entangled in or ingesting marine debris. Nearly 90% of that debris is plastic.
- Americans consume more than 10 billion paper bags per year. Approximately 14 million trees are cut down every year for paper bag production.
- Most of the pulp used for paper shopping bags is virgin pulp, as it is considered stronger.
- Paper production requires hundreds of thousands of gallons of water as well as toxic chemicals like sulphurous acid, which can lead to acid rain and water pollution.