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According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion.)
Only 1-3% of plastic ever gets recycled and each American disposes of roughly 65 lbs. of plastic each year.

Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.

According to Planetsave, in March 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the US to ban plastic bags in major supermarkets and pharmacies. Only biodegradable plastic and recyclable paper are now allowed. New York and New Jersey require retailers that use plastic bags to offer a recycling program.

Other countries are ahead of the United States in finding ways to reduce the impact of plastic bags on the environment.
Taiwan and South Africa both prohibit the thinner plastic bags.
As of 2003, Israel, Canada, western India, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Taiwan, China and Singapore have also banned or are moving toward banning the plastic bag.
Is paper better than plastic? Paper bags, which many people consider a better alternative to plastic bags, carry their own set of environmental problems. For example, according to the American Forest and Paper Association, in 1999 the U.S. alone used 10 billion paper grocery bags, which adds up to a lot of trees. Studies suggest that more greenhouse gases are released in their manufacture and transportation than in the production of plastic bags. And some industry reps say it takes more energy to recycle a paper bag vs. plastic.
- Plastic bags are the largest component of landfills. False it's paper.
- Plastic bag production uses a lot of oil. False Only 0.05% of U.S. oil usage goes into making plastic bags (12 M barrels out of 21 B barrels).
Source: PlasticsIndustry.org

Pictures are from a powerPoint titled "The Dangers of Plastic Bags" that was mailed around in May 2008. Copy at LauraElliott.blogspot.com

No future for plastic bags at greener loudoun
More Cities and Stores Banning Plastic Bags : Planetsave
Reusable Bags - Paper Bags Are Better Than Plastic, Right? at reusablebags.com
Top 10 Myths about Plastic Grocery Bags

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last updated 10 May 2008