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The Benefits of Reusable Shopping Bags and the Impact of Plastic Bags on the Environment

The plastic shopping bag was once a staple in our society. Choosing plastic bags at the grocery store was a no-brainer and even felt like the eco-friendly decision over the paper bag. In actuality, the plastic bag is no better, and quite frankly, the impact on the environment over time is more detrimental than our society could have planned.

Luckily, there has been a surge in promotional items in the way of reusable shopping bags. They’re a terrific alternative to the plastic bag, but not all of us have made the full transition. Perhaps these folks don’t understand the difference and/or importance of utilizing better resources.
The next time you walk out to go shopping without your reusable bags, there are a few factors to consider:

Plastic Bags

Consider these statistics:

  • An estimated 6 billion plastic bags are consumed in each country every year.
  • 10% of the plastic that is produced worldwide each year winds up in the ocean – 70% of which sinks to the ocean floor where it will never biodegrade.
  • Every square mile of the ocean has approximately 46,000 pieces of floating plastic which get mistaken for food by some marine mammals passing by. Other wildlife will unfortunately get tangled up in the loose plastic and drown.
  • Plastic bags that are buried in landfills can take up to 1,000 years to decompose and during this time, they undergo photo-degradation, a process by which an item (in this case plastic) is chemically broken down through the absorption of sunlight, therefore contaminating soil and water.
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “more than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year. Of those, approximately 100 billion are plastic shopping bags, which cost retailers about $4 billion annually.
  • The production of plastic bags also use up millions of gallons of oil, contributing further to the already existing greenhouse gas problem.

After reading these facts, it’s easy to see that plastic bags can have tragic implications on the environment.

Paper Bags

Although many people still think they’re a better option than plastic, paper bags still have their own set of negative impacts on the environment as well. In 1999, the American Forest and Paper Association stated that “the US alone used 10 billion paper grocery bags,” which means a lot of trees had to be cut down. Both compostable and paper bags require more material per bag to manufacture. In turn, this requires greater consumption of raw materials and greater energy and fuel usage in the manufacturing and transportation stages of the bags. Just because they’re not ending up in the bottom of the ocean, is this really a better option?

Reusable Bags

One of the key selling factors of reusable bags is that they’re made responsibly without using materials that harm the environment. Every reusable bag can eliminate the need for hundreds and thousands of paper or plastic bags. Remember though, the impact of these bags depends on how effective they are used. Polyethylene bags need to be used four times, a polypropylene bag must be used at least eleven times, and a cotton bag must be used at least 131 times before the effect can make a change on the environment.

Now that you’ve been presented with some pretty hard hitting evidence, what do you think? Is it time we as a planet eliminate the usage of these unnecessary bags? It’s high time to start taking advantage of the other materials Big Momma Earth has to offer us. There are several options to help your company begin moving forward into a more eco-friendly future.

Stephanie Friedman, Vice President of Marketing

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