Folks here in NJ use about 4 billion bags a year. That’s based on the average use of 500 bags per person per year, and there are about 8 million of us in the Garden State. And these bags are accumulating all over the place, in landfills, public spaces, the marine environment, our kitchen drawers. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, at least not in a reasonable amount of time (1,000 years). So that means that last year’s 4 billion bags are still around as we go through this year’s 4 billion bags. And the 4 billion bags from two years ago, and the 4 billion bags from three years ago are still around….you get the idea.
Thin film plastic bags are so aerodynamic that they waft up into the air, and spread all over the place. How many times have you seen plastic bags in trees and shrubs? Thin film bags look like jellyfish in the marine environment, so animals that eat jellyfish end up eating lots of plastic bags. The bags accumulate in the belly of the animal, making it feel full, so it doesn’t eat, and ends up dying of starvation. Just do an internet search on “plastic bags in marine animal necropsy” and you’ll see how these bags are killing our whales, dolphins, and sea turtles.
Every time you get a disposable plastic bag at a store, you are going to pay for it twice: once on the way into your house, and once on the way out. On the way in, the store hides the cost of the bag (overhead) in the price of the stuff you bought. On the way out, you pay garbage disposal fees, and of course the cost of litter removal, and the diminishing of the environment.
And finally, take a look at this graph from the EPA Solid Waste Report from 2012. The graph with the little diamonds looks very successful. It’s rising rapidly. That’s the amount of plastic trash we (the USA – not just NJ) generate. The graph with the little squares looks like a total loser. There is almost nothing going on, kinda “flatlining”. That’s the amount of plastic we recycle or burn for energy. The only way we can fix this is to stop using disposable plastics. And bags are the first on everyone’s list!