“We don’t need a handful of people doing Zero Waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” –Anne-Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef
The Media Recycles Team
Many previous Media Zero Waste columns have addressed the problem of plastic pollution. Of all plastic polluters, single-use plastic bags are the worst, followed closely by plastic straws. They are pervasive–littering our streets, trees and parks everywhere we look. They also have a devastating effect globally on the health of soil and waters.
So, bring your reusable bags with you to stores. Decline straws when offered or bring your own reusable ones. Advocate for alternatives to plastic manufacture and for ending governmental policies that support it.
For a little light reading, the Media Recycles Team browsed the websites of some of the leading ecological organizations recently (NRDC, the UN Environmental Program, Center for Biological Diversity) and offer the following facts to ponder:
Facts About Single-Use Plastic Bags
- Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture.
- Americans use an average of 365 plastic bags per person per year. People in Denmark use an average of four plastic bags per year.
- Only 1 to 3% of plastic bags manufactured are ever recycled.
- It takes 1,000 years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill. Unfortunately, the bags don’t break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment.
- Microplastics are also consumed by people through food and in the air. It is estimated that globally, people consume the equivalent of a credit card of plastic every week, and it is expected that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.
- The plastic typically used in bottles, bags and food containers contains chemical additives such as endocrine disruptors, which are associated with negative health effects including cancers, birth defects and immune system suppression in humans and wildlife.
- Chemical leachates from plastic bags impair the growth of the world’s most important microorganisms, Prochlorococcus, a marine bacterium that provides one tenth of the world’s oxygen.
- In 2014 California became the first state to ban plastic bags. As of March 2018, 311 local bag ordinances have been adopted in 24 states, including Hawaii. As of July 2018, 127 countries have adopted some form of legislation to regulate plastic bags.