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article imageOnly 5 Percent of 380 Billion Plastic Bags Recycled Every Year

By Chris V. Thangham     Sep 30, 2007 in Environment
After the plastic water bottle, plastic bags are the biggest waste generated in the US and worldwide. More than 380 billion plastic bags are used every year, and only 5.2% of plastic bags are recycled. The others remain in landfills for 1,000 years.
Plastic bags are made from an oil byproduct. It costs about 1.6 billion gallons of petroleum to produce 380 billion plastic bags each year according to FastCompany.com. Along with plastic bottles, plastic bags add a significant amount of waste in landfill and a big contributing factor for Global warming.
Municipalities feel a big burden in recycling plastic bags, as some of them get clogged in pipes, drains and ditches. Some cities are now pushing for retailers to change to a better alternative than plastic bags.
San Francisco spends $8 million a year on bag cleanup. They have issued a ban on plastic bags for grocery stores. The ban starts November 20th for grocery stores and next May for drug stores. The city will collect compostable bags from households and turn them into fertilizer.
The problem is, the new bags are expensive; they cost about 5 to 10 cents per piece, whereas plastic bags cost a mere 1 to 4 cents. The disadvantage, however, for the compostable bags is the fact they need special machines to recycle them. If left in landfills, they will act just like plastic bags.
Other cities like New York, Toronto and Los Angeles are also planning to have a similar measures to San Francisco’s. But there are some retailers who are already doing it on their own, out of which Ikea’s seems to be the most effective; they charge 5 cents for every plastic bag. As a result, customers have stopped using plastic bags and instead bring their own bags. Ikea also reduced its reusable cloth totes from 99 cents to 59 cents when they started charging 5 cents for the plastic bag. Ikea said sales of totes bags went up ten fold.
With this model, it's not just the retailer who saves money by using fewer plastic bags -- in the long term it’s a good decision for the customers and for the earth.
I think it's better for us to simply stop using plastic bags and use more cloth bags and totes instead. If you are still using plastic bags, try to recycle all of them instead of putting them in trash, where they will remain for 1,000 years. Do the right thing.
More about Plastic bags, Recycled, Fraction
 
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