Plastic bag litter has become far too commonplace in our rives, oceans, beaches, schoolyards, and backyards. Have you ever asked yourself how this plastic epidemic started? How did we become so reliant on something that we use for an average of 15 minutes before throwing it away?
Plastic bags are handed out for the simplest of reasons and in the millions. They are cheap to make, lightweight, waterproof and convenient but they are also hard to recycle and often end up littering our environment because of their aerodynamic properties. They often fly or float into drains, creeks and rivers, costing money to clean up, blocking drains and ending up in the marine environment, killing marine life. While they are often free to consumers, the environmental costs of plastic bags are immeasurable. They are practically indestructible and wherever they end up — in the ocean or the landfill — they will take hundreds of years to break down.
Plastic shopping bags are made from polyethylene, which is a thermoplastic made from oil. Since they are made from petroleum products and natural gas, plastic bags utilize nonrenewable resources and ultimately drive up fuel prices. More importantly, plastic bags don't biodegrade, they photodegrade - breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits with contaminate soil and waterways and enter the food chain when animals accidentally ingest the tiny particles.
1) A plastic shopping bag can take up to 1000 years to decompose.
2) An estimated one million birds and 100,000 turtles and other sea animals die of starvation each year after ingesting discarded plastic bags which block their digestive tracks.
3) The United States alone uses approximately 100 billion new plastic bags per year - the average person goes through between 350 and 500 per year.
4) Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.