Plastic Bags Statistics – And They’re Not Looking So Good

Petroleum-based grocery bags hit the checkout aisle in 1977. Presented as a revolutionary idea, they are now recognized as an environmental hazard. Just like bottled water, plastic bags are made from crude oil, contributing to global warming.

The Numbers

Up to 1000 – Estimated years for a plastic bag to decompose.
1460 – Plastic bags used in a year by an average family of four in the U.S.
12 million – Barrels of oil used to make the plastic bags that the U.S. consumes annually.
Less than 1% – Percentage of all plastic bags that get recycled in the U.S.
88.5 billion – Plastic bags consumed in the U.S. last year.
500 billion – Estimated plastic bags sold worldwide each year.

The Countries

San Francisco has banned non-biodegradable plastic bags in large grocery stores.
Ireland has a $.20 tax per bag.
France is banning plastic bags starting 2010 and starting 2008 in Paris.
South Africa has banned thin plastic bags
Uganda has banned thin plastic bags and has taxes on thicker ones.
Kenya is banning plastic bags starting 2008.
Zanzibar Islands have banned all plastic bags.
Mumbai, New Delhi, and two states in India have banned all plastic bags.
Bangladesh has banned all plastic bags.
Taiwan has banned all plastic bags as well as disposable plastic plates, cups, and cutlery.

5 Responses to “leftover-links”

  1. xobin says:


    he’res the wikipedia link! very good

  2. Jason says:

    Plastic bags should not be banned. The problem with ordinary or recycled plastics is that it can lie or float around in the environment for decades, but it can now be made oxo-biodegradable.

    This is done by including d2w additive (see http://www.biodeg.org) which makes it degrade, then biodegrade, on land or at sea, in the light or the dark, in heat or cold, in whatever timescale is required, leaving NO fragments NO methane and NO harmful residues. Oxo-bio can be tested according to American Standard 6954, and is certified safe for food-contact. It is made from a by-product of oil refining which used to be wasted, so nobody is importing extra oil to make it. It can be safely recycled, and made from recyclate, and there is little or no additional cost.

    Plastics from corn do NOT have a smaller carbon footprint than conventional plastics – consider the hydrocarbons burned by the machines which clear the land, plough and harrow the land, make the fertilisers and pesticides and bring them to the land, sow the seed, harvest the crop, take it to the factory, and run the autoclaves.

    Land and water should be used to grow food, not to make plastic. Also as they are thicker and heavier than normal plastic “compostables” need more trucks to transport them, using more diesel fuel and occupying more road space.

    “Compostable” plastics are too expensive for everyday use, and there are very few composting facilities. Also, as it is difficult to separate compostable plastics from other plastics, many industrial composters do not want plastic of any kind in their feedstock, and it is not suitable for home-composting. Compostable plastics damage the recycling process if they get into in a normal plastic recycling waste stream

  3. Jon says:

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for the comment and information. Oxo-biodegradable plastic is fascinating stuff and sounds like a great alternative to conventional plastics.

    But I’d still cheer if every single plastic bag, no matter the material, were banned. If only to save that bag from becoming leftover for any length of time.

    The reality of it is that the plastic bags are going to use energy to be produced and rely on oil, even if only a byproduct. Having a quality reusable bag is the best option and anything else would be (at least) second best… we strive for excellence here at leftoverbags.com.

  4. xobin says:

    yes those new and improved leftoverbags are nicer than leftoverones. I’m guessing a sea turtle would still get sick if it ate one though.