We are currently facing a global epidemic, which is wreaking havoc on the planet and her inhabitants, indiscriminately. The collective human consciousness is decidedly uncluttered by thoughts of the before, during and after repercussions of our blind consumption, yet the evidence abounds, in waterways and on beaches, in our parks and streets, in trees, in the stumps where trees once stood.
Americans use and dispose of approximately 100 billion plastic shopping bags each year, the manufacturing of which requires some 12 million barrels of non-renewable petroleum oil, costing over $500 million and creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste. The amount of petroleum used to make just 14 plastic bags would provide enough fuel to power a car for one mile.
Taking up to 1,000 years to decompose, and with a negligible number being recycled in the United States, every plastic bag ever made can still be found somewhere on this earth in one form or another. They remain a blight on our society, leaching toxins into our environment and killing an estimated 100,000 marine animals each year. Every square mile of ocean contains approximately 46,000 pieces of floating plastic, which act as sponges for toxic chemicals and are ingested by unsuspecting sea life, thus introducing these poisons into the food chain.
Paper is hardly a better option, requiring significant amounts of energy and resources to manufacture. With an estimated 14 million trees cut down each year to make the 10 billion paper bags consumed by the American public, not only is wildlife habitat being destroyed, but the exorbitant amount of water, chemicals and fossil fuels utilized during production are drastically compromising soil, air and water quality.
For being so elusive, the solution is a simple one. It is no more difficult to carry a few reusable cloth bags into the market than it is to carry numerous plastic bags out and discard them. We've effectively convinced ourselves that we need only to throw something away in order for it to be gone, but the truth of the matter remains: there is no “away”. Restrictions and bans on disposable bags have been effectively implemented in 25% of the world's countries. Let's join them.