Initially introduced in the 1970s, plastic bags now account for 4 out of every 5 bags handed out at the grocery store. According to Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research group, plastic bags dissolve over 400 years. The group also estimates consumers worldwide toss about 500 billion plastic bags annually.
It takes 36,850 tons of plastic to produce 6.9 billion plastics bags. In an average 12 months, 13 billion of them are dished out to consumers. Generally employed for a mere 20 minutes before being discarded, and take a gargantuan 1,000 years to rot to nothing.
OIL PRICES AND PLASTIC BAGS
Oil and natural gas are the two main sources of energy used to make plastic bags. 4% of the world‘s total oil production was accounted for in 2004 for the manufacturing of plastic bags. Oil production worldwide is approximately 22,243 million barrels; 889 million barrels were used to produce plastic bags since its initial introduction.
For 100 million plastic bags – nearly 430,000 gallons of crude oil is required.
PLASTIC BAGS AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
Most end up in the litter stream and clutter landfills. They flap from trees, float in the breeze, clog roadside drains, drift on the high seas. In the environment, plastic bags take months to hundreds of years to breakdown. As they decompose, tiny toxic bits seep into soils, lakes, rivers, and the oceans.
Recent reports have highlighted plastic bags as pollutants which often the main culprit of irrevocable detriment to birds, cattle, and eradicate vast numbers of seals, turtles and whales. Sea turtles may mistake clear plastic bags for jellyfish. BBC camerawoman filming in the Pacific in 2006, witnessed albatrosses, turtles and dolphins choking to death on plastic.
WORLDWIDE FACTS CONSUMPTION
Canada: 10 billion shopping bags circulates yearly. On April 2, 2007 the tiny town of Leaf Rapids in northwestern Manitoba is set to become the first Canadian community to ban plastic bags.
France: In 2003, 17 billion plastic bags were distributed to consumers.
United States: U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually, according to The Wall Street Journal. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion)
180 million: Roughly the number of plastic shopping bags distributed in San Francisco each year.
March 2007, San Francisco has become the first city in North America to ban the use of traditional plastic grocery bags, a step that municipal leaders hope will spread across the country.
United Kingdom: Polythene bags handed out to shoppers every year: 1 million. UK retailers have agreed to cut the environmental impact of the carrier bags they give out by 25% by the end of 2008. CAMBRIDGE is set to become a plastic bag-free zone, following a historic vote.
Australia: 6.9 billion plastic bags distributed during 2002.
Steps were taken in other regions in South Africa, Ireland and Taiwan by placing additional fees and taxes on the bags to discourage use.
Each reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate hundreds, if not thousands, of plastic bags over its lifetime.
Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime.