Every year, roughly 100 billion plastic bags are used by people in the United States. On average, each person uses between 350 to 500 of these bags a year. When considering that each bag is only used for approximately 25 minutes before being thrown away or recycled, this is quite a bit of waste.
The Environmental Impact of Plastic Bags on Ocean Life
There is a significant amount of debris that washes up along United States’ coastlines. Plastic bags account for 10% of this pollution.
When some forms of coastal wildlife see floating plastic bags and pieces of plastic, they often mistake them for food such as jellyfish and plankton. Once this plastic is ingested, it usually results in the death of these animals. It is estimated that ingesting plastic causes the death of a million birds, 100,000 turtles, and other sea animals every year.
The Environmental Impact of Plastic Bags on the Overall Environment
It can take 15 to 1,000 years for each plastic bag to break down. This does depend on the environment within which the bag is located, however. When these bags are in landfills, for example, they may take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
It’s important to note that plastic bags photo-degrade rather than biodegrade. This means that they break down into smaller pieces. As a result, they often end up in the planet’s oceans. As previously mentioned, this can negatively impact the food chain.
The Environmental Impact of Paper Bags on Forests
In order to produce paper bags, tree pulp is used. In 1999 alone, for instance, 14 million trees were cut down in order to produce paper grocery bags. At that time, Americans used approximately 10 billion paper grocery bags, and this figure doesn’t include other types of paper shopping bags.
The Benefits of Reusable Bags
The average lifespan of a reusable bag is the equivalent of using over 700 disposable plastic bags. When a single person opts for reusable bags, they could remove over 22,000 plastic bags from the environment and the nation’s landfills over the course of their lifetime.
In addition to protecting the environment, reusable bags are also more sturdy that their disposable counterparts. Furthermore, they provide a convenient option for transporting personal items and materials after they’ve been used for grocery and other types of shopping.
For over a decade, the Environmental Protection Agency has been collecting statistics on plastic bags. They have determined that approximately 2% of plastic bags are being recycled in this country. Given the poor recycle rate of plastic bags, it makes even more sense to encourage the use of reusable bags.
Different Types of Reusable Bags
There are a variety of reusable bag types and styles. In addition to reusable grocery and other types of shopping bags, wine totes are also available in reusable form. Wine totes offer a convenient and safer way to transport wine and other beverages that come in glass bottles. This is because there are separate sections for each bottle, which can prevent breakage. Wine totes and other reusable bags can also be customized to increase brand recognition and awareness.