Bag Facts

Why you should Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB), every time and every place you shop

  1. A plastic shopping bag can take anywhere from 15 to 1000 years to decompose. In a compressed landfill, deprived of atmosphere to help them biodegrade, paper bags don’t fare much better.
  2. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, but are at risk for photo degradation, light exposure dissolving them into toxic polymer particles. Most often, when this happens, it happens in the ocean.
  3. According to the Wall Street Journal, only 1% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide; the rest are left to live on indefinitely in landfills (or worse, in the environment).
  4. Plastic bags CAN be recycled. In most Central Coast recycling programs, the key is to “bag your bags.” Tie any clean plastic film (dry cleaning bags, plastic shopping bags, produce bags etc.) inside another clean plastic bag and tie a knot, then put the bag in your mixed recycling collection bin.
  5. Many stores also accept their bags back. Look for a bag recycling collection bin, usually located at the front of the store.
  6. The United States alone uses approximately 100 billion new plastic bags per year – the average person goes through between 350 and 500. Calculations for the average Californian indicate we go through about 550 per year.
  7. Thanks to their light weight, plastic bags are the debris most likely to fly away from landfills, settling instead in trees, storm drains, beaches, and the ocean.
  8. Public agencies in California alone spend over $300 million on coastal litter clean-up per year.  Couldn’t that be better spent?
  9. Plastic bags make up over 10% of washed-up debris polluting the US coastline.
  10. According to the British Antarctic Survey, discarded plastic bags have been found as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as The Falkland Islands.
  11. An estimated one million birds and 100,000 turtles and other sea animals die of starvation each year after ingesting discarded plastic bags which block their digestive tracks.
  12. Made from petroleum products and natural gas, plastic bags utilize nonrenewable resources, ultimately helping to drive up fuel prices.
  13. It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce the amount of plastic bags the US uses per year.
  14. Paper bags aren’t necessarily better. The United States cuts down 14 million trees per year simply to supply the demand for paper shopping bags.
  15. It requires 13% more energy to produce one single paper bag than to produce two plastic bags.
  16. Made with chemicals processed at high temperatures, paper bag production releases many toxins into the atmosphere at much the same rate as plastic production.
  17. Paper bags weigh nearly ten times their counterparts in plastic, requiring more fuel to ship them out to stores.
  18. Despite being recyclable, research shows that only 20% of paper bags are recycled.
  19. In landfills, paper bags produce over twice as much atmospheric waste as plastic, making them questionable at best as the superior choice for the environment.
  20. Ireland, the first European country to impose a tax on them, has decreased plastic shopping bag consumption by 90% since 2002, reducing overall plastic bag usage by 1.08 billion.
  21. In the past five years, over a dozen countries have banned or issued a tax on disposable bags.
  22. Reusable bags come in all sorts of smart and stylish shapes and prints, making your shopping trips a little less routine and a little more fun.
  23. Some grocery stores even offer discounts for customers who bring their own bags!
  24. The average reusable bag has the lifespan of over seven hundred disposable plastic bags.
  25. Over a lifetime, use of reusable bags by just one person (you!) will save over 22,000 plastic bags.

Waste Facts

  • The average Californian produces 5 lbs of garbage each day; nearly 140,000 lbs in their lifetime.
  • 10-cents of every dollar spent on groceries pays for packaging that you’ll throw away. Buy food and products with less packaging and you’ll save money and the environment, too.