Environmental Facts: as of 2009:

“The plastic bags are a burden on the environment,” L.A. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said. “They are not biodegradable. They end up in our ocean…. It doesn’t need to be that way.”

  • Every year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. More reason to consider reusable shopping bags.

  • According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year.

  • Californians throw away 294,000,000 pounds of plastic bags every year, or 147,000 tons - enough waste to circle the planet over 250 times.

  • In the State of California, 600 plastic bags are thrown away every second.

  • Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.

  • According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion)
  • Some estimate a plastic bag may take one thousand years to decompose. That means a bag thrown away during the crusades, the birth of Constantine, or at the signing of the Magna Carta would just be finishing its decomposition now.

  • 86% of all known species of sea turtles have had reported problems of entanglement or ingestion of marine debris.

  • If Californians cut their plastic bag waste in half, it would save over two thousand barrels of oil a day( over 800,000 barrels a year) and keep 73,000 tons of rubbish out of our landfills.

  • L.A. County uses approximately 6 billion plastic bags each year, and 48,000 tons end up in landfills.
  • Only 10 to 15 percent of paper bags and 1 to 3 percent of plastic bags are recycled. More reason to consider reusable shopping bags.

  • Paper bags take up more than twice the landfill space than plastic varietals do. Also, their greater weight and volume requires more trucks and gasoline for hauling than plastic.

  • It takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag.

  • Paper bags generate 70% more air pollutants than plastic bags.

  • It is estimated that between 1 to 3 percent of plastic bags produced worldwide end up as litter. Remember, production numbers are estimated between 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags a year.

  • In the 1980s it was estimated that plastic rubbish caused the deaths of over 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles a year in the North Pacific alone.
  • According to the industry publication Modern Plastics, Taiwan consumes 20 billion bags a year - 900 per person.

  • According to Australia's Department of Environment, Australians consume 6.9 billion plastic bags each year - 326 per person. An estimated 0.7% or 49,600,000 end up as litter each year.
  • Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.

  • Plastic bags don't biodegrade, they photodegrade - breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.

  • As part of Clean Up Australia Day, in one day nearly 500,000 plastic bags were collected.

  • Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC news, one group harvests 30,000 bags per month.


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