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Friday, August 7, 2009

BYOB

Starting many months ago, we use canvas bags when we go grocery shopping. I store them in the trunk of my car so I never have the excuse that I forgot them. Occasionally we buy more than my four canvas bags can handle, but for the most part, we have severed the amount of plastic bags we receive from stores.

(I've even started decorating my own canvas bags. Once you read the following article, scroll down to check out my latest creations.)

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Here are some great facts from Green Cotton:



If we had to name our nation’s top ten environmental accomplishments in 2008, I seriously doubt that recycling plastic bags would make it on the list. We currently recycle a mere 1-3% of plastic bags (we have 97% room for improvement).

Unfortunately, making matters worse, it is currently more expensive to recycle plastic bags and bring them back into the market than it is to make new ones. No wonder companies are producing, producing, producing and not recycling. All the more reason for us consumers to rise up and make change happen on our own. Our current economic downturn has plummeted the recycling further, making it even more economically unappealing to corporations.

So let’s revisit the statistics as we kick off 2009:

Plastic Bag Consumption Facts
  • Each year, we consume an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.
  • According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year.
  • Americans alone discarded more than 3.3 million tons of low- and high-density polyethylene bags, sacks, and wraps in 2000 (EPA).
  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually.
  • Taiwan consumes 20 billion bags a year—900 per person (industry publication, Modern Plastics).
  • Four out of every five bags handed out at grocery stores in the USA are plastic.

Estimated Cost of Plastic Bags in US
  • Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion (source EPA.gov)

Environmental Cost of Plastic Bags
  • Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.
  • Turtles think the bags are jellyfish, their primary food source.
  • On land, many cows, goats and other animals suffer a similar fate to marine life when they accidentally ingest plastic bags while foraging for food.
  • Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.
*Sources (reusablebags.com and verdavivo blog)

Recycling Facts
  • Plastic bags are rarely recycled, merely 1-3% currently in the US
  • Plastic bags don’t degrade easily in natural environments nor landfills. In fact they do not biodegrade, they photo-degrade, which can take up to 1,000 years breaking into smaller and smaller particles (often toxic to surrounding ecosystems).
  • It is more expensive to recycle plastic bags and bring them back into the marketplace than to create new ones.

Curbing and Banning Plastic Bag Consumption
  • One of the poorest countries in the world, Bangladesh has banned plastic bags since 2002
  • China has even banned free plastic bags (resulting in 27 million barrels of oil saved)
  • San Francisco has banned plastic bags in stores
  • Certain counties in NY have banned plastic bags and LA has imposed strict limitations
  • Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have banned plastic bags
  • Some retailers offer incentives to bring your own; few however impose an extra cost for plastic bag use

(Primary sources for this blog post: resuablebags.com, EPA.gov, Trellisearth.com as well as several other websites listed above as hyperlinks.)

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Not convinced yet to stop gathering plastic bags? GreenLAGirl offers ideas on where to get eco-friendly bags that suit your style. And take a gander at my new designs. Maybe that'll change your mind. Interested in these, want help in making your own, or have any special requests, let me know!

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