If you had said half a century ago that one of the greatest threats to our environment over the next century would come from plastic bags, you would have been laughed at and told to stop smoking whatever it was you were smoking. Yet these days, people are coming to that conclusion. It is a little known fact that, even in a country which often uses paper bags where others use plastic, Americans throw away a startling 100 billion plastic bags every year. Of those, estimates as to how many are recycled range between one and three per cent.
Now, the humble plastic bag may seem innocuous. However, consider that every year thousands of birds and marine mammals are killed through choking or strangulation by plastic bags. That is a fact – as is the information that plastic bags are not biodegradable, and can take a millennium to break down (and even when they do, they pollute the soil and water in which they lie. Then consider the fact that the production of plastic bags requires the use of incredible amounts of petroleum – a scarce natural resource.
If you get plastic bags when you do your grocery shopping, or any other shopping for that matter, think about whether you need to throw them away. Is there a chance that they could be better used to wrap packed lunches, serve as household storage, or be used to carry other things around – like books to college? If not, they can certainly be recycled. It is much better to do any of these things than to throw them away.