The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store, just one of many stores we frequent. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil or natural gas, both non-renewable resources, are used to make these bags. Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. At this time roughly only 5 or 6% of them are recycled. Millions end up in the litter stream outside of the landfills, either in the oceans or on land where aquatic life and animals, mistaking them for food, are poisoned. The rest end up in landfills. It can take centuries for them to decompose.
Though they are inexpensive to produce, easily reused as trashcan liners or lunch bags, and can be recycled, there are too many plastic bags. People are starting to bring their own reusable bags with them to the grocery store and many stores now give a $.05/bag rebate. Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime. Some countries impose a plastic tax to encourage consumers to cut down on using them and San Francisco has banned them. Whole Foods stores no longer carry plastic bags. 100% biodegradable bags are now available. Fortunately change is happening.