Your Mind

No, Barbie Girl — Life In Plastic Is NOT Fantastic.

By December 13, 2015 0

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the first line of Katy Perry’s worldwide hit “Firework:”

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind…

But have you ever stopped to think about how sad that imagery is? A plastic bag is litter… and it’s drifting through the wind polluting our earth.

People love plastic bags, and the extent they’re using them is insane:

  • Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide.
  • About 2 million plastic bags are used every minute around the world.
  • Approximately 32 million tons of plastic waste are generated annually, representing 12.7% of total municipal solid waste.
  • The average American family takes home 1,500 plastic bags a year.
  • Americans use and throw away 100 billion plastic bags every year, which requires 12 million barrels of oil per year to manufacture.

You see what I mean? We use a LOT of plastic bags.

But what’s so bad about them? Are they really that much worse than other trash?

As it turns out — yes.

  •  A single plastic bag can take up 500 years or more to degrade.
  • An estimated 3,960,000 tons of plastic bags, sack and wraps are produced annually. Of those, 3,570,000 tons (90%) are discarded. This is almost triple the amount discarded the first year plastic bag numbers were tracked.
  • Only about .5% to 3% of all bags winds up recycled.
  • It is estimated that every square mile of ocean contains approximately 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.
  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually at an estimated cost to retailers of $4 billion.

And also? They’re really, really bad for the environment (like, really bad).

  • According to data from the Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanups, plastic bags are consistently in the top 10 pieces of trash collected on beaches around the world.
  • The extremely slow decomposition rate of plastic bags leaves them to drift on the ocean for untold years. According to the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, these plastic bags cause the death of many marine animals (fish, sea turtles, etc.), every year when animals mistake them for food.
  • When plastics break down, they don’t biodegrade; they photodegrade. This means the materials break down to smaller fragments which readily soak up toxins. They then contaminate soil, waterways, and animals upon digestion.
  • 10% of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean, 70% of which finds its way to the ocean floor where it will likely never degrade.

So, what’s the solution to this plastic bag dilemma? Reusable bags.

If every person in New York City used one less grocery bag, it would cut waste by 5 million pounds and save $250,000 in disposal costs, plus the average reusable bag has a lifespan equal to that of more than 700 disposable plastic bags, so you’re getting more bang for your buck.

One person doing something as simple as using reusable bags over their lifetime would remove more than 22,000 plastic bags from the environment, think about how many plastic bags would be saved if every person started using reusable bags.

All I ask is that next time you go shopping, take a reusable bag with you. It takes little to no effort AND a lot of grocery offer discounts to customers who bring reusable bags! You’re saving the earth and some money. Not to mention that reusable bags come in a wide variety of stylish shapes and prints, making shopping a bit less routine and more fun.


If you’re looking for cute, reusable bags that also promote a good cause, check out TheNewPlastic. The bags are designed by my friend, Megan. She and her kickass bags are the inspiration behind this post.