The Scary Truth About Plastic Bags And What You Can Do About It - Zero Waste Cartel

The Scary Truth About Plastic Bags And What You Can Do About It

In the USA over 100 billion plastic bags are discarded yearly. And the average American family uses over 1000 plastic bags per year.

Despite those facts - plastic is rapidly becoming a social taboo. 

At the forefront of the plastic war, shopping bags go arm in arm with plastic straws, single-use water bottles, and toothbrushes.

And although thousands of supermarkets around the world have... well... almost/kinda/not really ‘banned’ single use plastic shopping bags - they’re still a huge problem that have catastrophic effects. 

Plastic bags contribute to 3 terrifying situations:

1. A lifetime of toxic landfill

2. The death of our wildlife

3. Carbon emissions and climate change


1. A lifetime of toxic landfill

Even the tiniest bags can take up to 1000 years to decompose - and most cannot be recycled!

So let’s think about that for a second. Those 100 billion bags we mentioned earlier, if we fast forward 10 years they’ll still be sitting there. 

But after 10 years those 100 billion bags will have grown into a mountain of plastic - 1-trillion bags high.

And it's here that each one of them will slowly break down into tiny particles (micro-plastics) that contaminate our soil and water.

2. The death of our wildlife

Plastic bags, like a lot of rubbish, find their way into our waterways and general environment through littering, overflowing landfill, incorrect disposal or just by chance.

Not only do plastic bags stick around forever - but they get worse with age! 

Plastic bags are mostly made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which actually absorbs harmful toxins from its surrounding environment. This poses a fatal threat to animals who consume them by mistake.

Our marine life also suffers.

Plastic bags have an uncanny resemblance to jellyfish, a food source for many animals including turtles!

But unfortunately, it’s even worse than you might think...

Plastic pollution affects at least 700 marine species, while some estimates suggest that at least 100 million marine mammals are killed each year from plastic pollution.

from Plymouth University

3. Carbon emissions and climate change

The  average American family uses 1,500 plastic bags each year. 

Producing these bags costs energy.

The crude oil needed to make 14 plastic bags, is equivalent to the same amount of gas required for you to drive one mile.

That’s 107 unnecessary miles a year, and that’s only from production!

Harmful gases released from rotting plastics include methane (contributes to climate change) & ethylene (involved in production of atmospheric carbon monoxide).

The solution isn't rocket science… we all need to use our reusable bags

If we don’t use them, we don’t need them.

Get your hands on some reusable, durable shopping bags. You’ll never have to use plastic bags again!

If you're not in the market to buy new shopping bags, use an old tote bag, or backpack, or anything you have lying around.

We have some 100% natural cotton mesh produce bags that we love because they allow your veggies to breathe. You can check them out here 6 pack of reusable rustic bags.

Regardless of what reusable you use - the main hurdle you’ll face is actually remembering them.

So here are 5 tips to help you remember your reusables!

1. Attach a clip to one or two bags and fasten to your handbag

2. Hang on a shelf or hook near the front door, you’ll always see them on your way out!

3. Always keep one or two in your car

4. Have a permanent note stuck on your dashboard or steering wheel ‘GOTCHYA BAGS?’

5. While you’re getting ready to leave the house, use a reusable bag to put you keys, water bottle, list and handbag into! You can’t leave the house without all that!

They’ll be like a third limb in no time!

Once you develop that third limb, you’ll never have to worry about feeling guilty for contributing to the plastic bag madness that is silently killing our planet.

P.S never beat yourself up if you do forget your reusables. We like to aim for consistency because perfection is unattainable.  

Alice G. 
Alice is the Content Manager at Zero Waste Cartel. She's an environmental biologist, plant enthusiast & avid tea drinker.   

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it is the ubiquitous plastic packaging – especially in the grocery store – that is my problem. I learned years ago how to not use – every- plastic bags for anything, BUT I still have them coming into my house b/c I have no choice whether to buy some food items wrapped/packaged in plastic.

Susan B. Chandler

I all way use my bags I leave them in my truck so I never forget them


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