A FACTSHEET ON PLASTIC BAGS
Forwarded by Hellen Tan, compiled by Wong Ee Lynn
1. Data released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency shows that somewhere between 550 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.
2. Less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled. It costs more to recycle a bag than to produce a new one.
3. According to Jared Blumenfeld, Director of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment: “There’s harsh economics behind bag recycling: It costs $4,000 to process and recycle 1 ton of plastic bags, which can then be sold on the commodities market for $32.”
SO, WHERE DO OUR PLASTIC BAGS GO?
4. A study by the US Academy of Sciences in 1975 showed that oceangoing vessels together dumped 8 million pounds of plastic annually. The real reason that the world’s landfills weren’t overflowing with plastic was because most of it ended up in our oceans!
5. The British Antarctic Survey disclosed that plastic bags have been found floating north of the Arctic Circle near Spitzbergen, and as far south as the Falkland Islands.
6. The US National Marine Debris Monitoring Programme reports that plastic bags account for over 10% of the debris washed up on the US coastline.
7. Plastic bags do photodegrade. Over time, they break down into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers, which eventually contaminate our soil and waterways. As a consequence, microscopic particles can enter the food chain.
8. The effect of plastic bags on wildlife can be catastrophic. The World Wildlife Fund reports that birds can get terminally entangled, and nearly 200 different species of sea life including whales, dolphins, seals and turtles die due to plastic bags. Most die after ingesting plastic bags, which they mistake for food.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO CHANGE THIS?
9. Bangladesh and Rwanda have banned plastic bags, China has outlawed the giving out of ‘free’ plastic bags and Ireland took the lead in Europe, taxing plastic bags in 2002. Ireland has now reduced plastic bag usage by 90%.
10. Israel, Canada, western India, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Taiwan and Singapore have also banned or are moving towards banning the plastic bag.
11. Plastic shopping bags are made from polyethylene, a thermoplastic made from oil. Reducing plastic bags will save oil and energy. CNN Asia reported that China will save 37 million barrels of oil each year due to its ban on free plastic bags.
12. If we use a cloth shopping/grocery bag, we can save 6 bags a week. That’s 24 bags a month, or 288 bags a year, for each of us. This adds up to 22,176 plastic bags in an average lifetime.
The choice is ours. Recycling used plastic bags isn’t a solution. Reducing plastic bag usage and carrying your own shopping bags and takeaway containers is. Do something drastic – cut the plastic!