- Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide. Consider China, a country of 1.3 billion, which consumes 3 billion plastic bags daily, according to China Trade News.
- About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute.
- A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
- More than 3.5 million tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps were discarded in 2008.
- 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.
- Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.
- It is estimated that worldwide plastic bag consumption falls between 500 billion and 1 trillion bags annually. That breaks down to almost 1 million every minute.
- The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
- In good circumstances, high-density polyethylene will take more than 20 years to degrade. In less ideal circumstances (land fills or as general refuse), a bag will take more than 1,000 years to degrade.
- Anywhere from .5% to 3% of all bags winds up recycled. (BBC, CNN)
- Ten percent of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean. 70% of which finds its way to the ocean floor, where it will likely never degrade. (UN, 2006)
- The extremely slow decomposition rate of plastic bags leaves them to drift on the ocean for untold years. According to Algalita Marine Research Foundation, these plastic bags cause the death of many marine animals (fish, sea turtles, etc.), every year when animals mistake them for food.
- Numbers were kept on 43 different types of refuse. Cigarette butts were the most common. Plastic bags came in second. (Ocean Conservency, 2008)
- 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.
- Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up to harvest them. These are then woven and sold as hats and (more durable) bags
I was recently part of a cleanup of Saunders park across from my business in the famous Fort Worth Stockyards. Saunders Park has this beautiful flowing river that was always overflowing with trash, plastic bags and debris. I decided one day that I would clean it up. Donned with wetsuits and armed myself with pool-skimmers on long poles. Over a two-week period, a friend and I logged more than 30 hours of cleanup in the four-foot-deep water, hauling out enough trash to fill dozens of huge garbage cans. As for the park the debris probably shouldn’t be a surprise, given the city’s schedule of maintenance. Trash cans are emptied twice a week, but other than that, cleanup crews hit Saunders Park only about once a year — still far better than other pools, creeks, and fountains in city parks, which get cleaned only once every three years. So think of all the parties and parades in the Stockyards every year, the tides of tourists, restaurantgoers, clubgoers, and shoppers who hit the area every week, and you can imagine why the debris builds up. The annual city budget for maintenance of the park is a meager $2,150. Fort Worth Weekly a newspaper in Fort Worth,TX heard of my efforts and ran a story on it. The link to the story is here: