Trillions of plastic bags have been produced since their introduction over 30 years ago. The production of plastic bags depletes our earth’s non-renewable resources. The Production of plastic bags necessitates the use of chemicals, energy, and petroleum-based products. Like all plastics, these bags are made from petroleum. The U.S. uses over 100 billion bags annually, according to the Wall Street journal. This is equivalent to throwing away over 12 million barrels of oil per year. An average family of 4 in the United States uses 1,460 bags per year. The recycling rate of plastic bags is less than 1%.
Paper bags are not the answer either. Paper bags require more than 4 times the energy for production than plastic bags, and also cost double to produce. (5.7c vs 2.22) Paper bags deplete another of the earth’s valuable resources, trees. It is estimated that the United States consumes 14 million trees per year to make paper bags. The recycling rate for paper bags is less than 15%. Over 85 billion bags are thrown away each year in the U. S. alone.
Once a plastic bag is disposed of it takes over 1,000 years to degrade. Plastic bags do not biodegrade, instead they photo degrade. The sun breaks down the plastic into smaller and smaller TOXIC particles. The degradation of the plastic releases toxic waste into the environment, polluting our land, air, and water. Hundreds of thousands of these bags are inhaled or eaten by animals each year. Cows, sea turtles, fish, sharks, goats, whales, birds, and other animals fall victim to plastic bags each year. A study done off the coast of Newfoundland found that over 100,000 animals were killed by entanglement over a 3 year period.
In countries such as South Africa, discarded plastic bags are a major eyesore. Often carried from land fills by the wind, discarded plastic bags are often seen hanging in bushes, floating in lakes and rivers, flapping from fences, spoiling landscapes and choking innocent animals. Plastic bags have become so prevalent in South Africa that they are mockingly referred to as the “national flower.”
|Plastic bags are responsible for more than 100,000 marine animal deaths every year.|
Many countries from around the world have begun to make changes. Uganda, South Africa, and the city of Bejing have all banned single use plastic shopping bags. Bag taxes, usually around $.15 per bag, have been established in Ireland, Denmark, Scotland, Italy, Tawain, and Switzerland. Ireland’s levy decreased the use of plastic shopping bags by 90%! Large shopping markets in Malawi, Africa now charge for the use of plastic bags. Other countries such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, India, Hong Kong, China, Australia, Mumbai, and Kenya are considering a bag tax or plastic bag ban. Taiwan began charging for plastic bags and has been able to reduce use by 80 percent. In Bangladesh plastic bags plugged drains and increased flooding. Bangladesh soon banned plastic bags.
With increased awareness of global warming and other environmental issues, the use of plastic bags will continue to be scrutinized and, hopefully, minimized. Ikea, a world wide furnishing chain, has begun to charge shoppers $.05 per plastic bag. At Safeway, King Soopers and Albertson’s stores nation wide a $.05 rebate is given on your shopping bill for using a reusable cloth bag. Recently, San Francisco approved a ban on plastic grocery bags. It is probable that many other U.S. cities will follow suit. Currently Boston, Oakland, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Portland, Washington DC, and the state of New York are all considering banning plastic bags. As environmental issues continue to gain momentum, the demand for cloth shopping bags will increase. Africa Bags will be on the cutting edge of the emerging market for cloth shopping bags.