We drew awareness to World Water Day and the troubling statistic that 1 in 8 people do not have access to clean water. Clean water is good, but that doesn’t mean we need to infiltrate the environment with plastic water bottles. Unfortunately, the growth of plastic pollution continues to devastate our earth in alarming rates. Sadly, every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.
Here are a few sobering facts regarding just plastic bags. Yikes.
Fast Facts on Plastic Bags
- Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide. Look at this link http://plasticbagbanreport.com/ that counts the number of plastic bags consumed this year (as of this writing, almost 113 billion).
- About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute. The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags. This costs retailers about $4 billion a year.
- Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts (2008).
- Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down and a single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
- An estimated 3,960,000 tons of plastic bags, sack and wraps were produced in 2008. Of those, 3,570,000 tons (90%) were discarded. This is almost triple the amount discarded the first year plastic bag numbers were tracked (1,230,000 tons in 1980). (EPA)
So what does this mean?
The extremely slow decomposition rate of plastic bags leaves them drifting on the ocean for countless years. According to Algalita Marine Research Foundation, these plastic bags then cause the death of many marine animals (fish, sea turtles, etc.), when animals mistake them for food.
Moreover, when plastics break down, they don’t biodegrade; they photodegrade. This means the materials break down to smaller fragments which readily soak up toxins. They then contaminate soil, waterways, and animals upon digestion.
In order to stop this growing environmental hazard, we need to limit our plastic bag use and encourage a cultural shift away from use-and-toss culture. We encourage starting using re-usable bags since each reusable bag can eliminate thousands of plastic bags.
Finally, encourage your home state, similar to California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, to enact plastic bag bans, or impose a tax for those who need to use a plastic bag.
We can all make a difference with just these little steps. Let’s ensure the ocean and our marine animals are safe!