In the years 2015 to 2019, the impacts of climate change have accelerated and we're already feeling the difference. The carbon dioxide growth rate was 20% higher than the previous five years, the ocean levels are rising, and storms and wildfires are breaking out with fervor.
Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic pollute the ocean each year. Around the world, people have come to rely on single-use plastics in their day to day lives. We bottle our water in it, eat our food with it, and carry our groceries in it.
For every piece of single-use plastic, there is a reusable alternative. We can't halt the destructive march of climate change by opting for these alternatives, alone. However, consciously reducing our use of single-use plastic is a great way that individuals can cut reduce their carbon footprints and make a difference.
Approximately one million plastic bags are used each minute. That may be hard to fathom, but we're going to break that down for you to illustrate the impact plastic bags have on our planet. Read on to find out more about plastic bags and why you should make the switch to reusable alternatives.
We Waste Oil Making Plastic Bags
In the US, alone, 12 million barrels of oil are used per year to make the 100 billion plastic bags we go through.
Plastic bags are made from polyethylene, which comes from either refined oil or natural gas. After the oil or gas has been drilled from underground, it must be heated and pressurized. This process is repeated multiple times to create the product we're used to seeing, and it releases toxic fumes into the air each time.
Many of us recognize that fossil fuels are not sustainable. Yet, we use millions of barrels of oil per year just to produce a product that is considered trash longer than it is considered useful.
For reference, 12 million barrels of oil comes out to over 500 million gallons of oil. A car with poor gas mileage, let's say 13 miles per gallon, could drive for 6.5 billion miles with that amount of oil. It could drive around the entire planet over 250,000 times without running out of gas.
We Barely Use Plastic Bags Before Tossing Them
Think about the ways you use plastic bags.
You get them from the store so you can carry your groceries or purchased products home more easily. They sit in the trunk of your car on the ride home. You bring them inside, empty the contents, and then what?
You might tuck them away somewhere and use them for the little trashcans around your home. Or you pack your work lunch into them and take them to work. Reusing plastic bags is one way to reduce your carbon footprint, but it seems that most people aren't doing this. There is actually a grocery store that shames its customers because they are not using reusable tote bags!
How do we know that? Because the average amount of time a plastic bag is used in America before being thrown away is 12 minutes.
Rather than taking plastic bags from the grocery store and trying to reuse them a few times, why not replace them with something sustainable? Try a smaller canvas bag for your work lunches and a large canvas tote bag for shopping.
We Can Recycle Plastic Bags--But We Don't
The waste management industry provides receptacles for plastic bag recycling. You've probably seen them outside of grocery stores or strip malls.
Plastic bags can be turned into other plastic products after they are recycled, reducing the need to create new plastics. The problem? An average of one plastic bag per 200 is recycled.
The rest end up in landfills or littering the streets. What happens next? Read on to find out.
Plastic Bags Take a Long Time to Break Down
One of the most alarming things about plastic bags is the amount of time they take to break down. On nearly every source you can find about plastic bags, this figure always jumps out.
It takes at least 500 years for a single plastic bag in a landfill to degrade. In some cases, it can take up to 1,000 years!
Plus, plastic bags don't break down completely. They do what is called photo-degrade, which means they break up into tons of tiny pieces. These tiny pieces absorb toxins from their surroundings and pollute the ground they rest on.
What's worse is that we're generating plastic bags at faster rates than ever before, to the point that our landfills are running out of space. From the year 2000 until now, we have used and thrown away more plastic bags than we did in the entire 20th century. That means that just as the plastic from the last century is starting to break down, we're replacing it at an alarming rate!
And that's just what happens in landfills. What happens to plastic bags that wind up in the ocean is arguably worse.
Plastic is Filling Our Oceans
As we noted earlier, up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year. This is a huge problem for a number of reasons.
For starters, our oceans play host to critical lifeforms that do a lot of work to combat climate change. For example, plankton absorb carbon dioxide from the water and store it deep within the ocean, which helps to keep the air we breathe cleaner. Overall, the ocean safely absorbs 30%-50% of our carbon dioxide.
However, the plastic that makes its way into the ocean disturbs the ecosystems that exist underwater. That includes the lifeforms that store carbon dioxide. With less of it heading underwater, more of it is polluting the air that we breathe up on land.
As all that plastic chokes out the marine life that was helping us fight against greenhouse gases, it creates more greenhouse gases.
First, the sun and heat cause the plastic to release its own deadly greenhouse gas. In reaction to greenhouse gases, our climate becomes more extreme and temperatures rise. The hotter things get, the more greenhouse gases are released from plastic.
It may seem like an impossible cycle to break, but it isn't. At the very least, reducing our use of single-use plastics can slow this cycle so the effects aren't as rapid.
Plastic is Harming (And Killing) Wildlife
Anyone who has owned a cat or a dog knows that animals tend to explore with their mouths. If something catches their attention, it's not unlikely that they'll pick it up, chew on it, and even try to eat it. When we see them doing this, we stop them, right?
The problem is that we can't stop wildlife from investigating the plastic that litters their habitats. At least 267 different species have been negatively impacted by plastic bags in the ocean, alone. This high number doesn't account for the animals on land who have ingested or been suffocated by plastic bags.
Animals that ingest plastic often end up with intestinal issues as the plastic gets stuck in their systems. This doesn't just affect the ones who directly ingest plastic, either.
That plastic will affect an entire food chain. One animal consumes plastic, another animal consumes that animal, and so on. All the while, that plastic does not break down, and can even tamper the food that humans eat.
Animals who consume plastic can also starve to death as a result. The plastic sits in their stomach and makes them feel as if they are too full to eat anymore but provides no nourishment.
Even whales, some of the largest mammals on the planet, have been found dead with their stomachs full of plastic. Imagine how many plastic bags it would take to fill the giant stomachs of those gentle creatures.
What Can We Do to Help? (And What's Already Being Done?)
Seeing all those facts and figures laid out can be overwhelming, but the goal is not to make you feel helpless! There are plenty of ways that we can reduce our consumption of single-use plastic and make a change for the better.
Read on for some positive information and get inspired!
Plastic Bag Legislation
A number of states and cities in America have decided to curb the use of single-use plastic by changing their laws. While some citizens have found these legal changes frustrating and disruptive to their daily routines, many have realized that making the change to reusable bags isn't that hard.
In 2014, California was the first US state to make a change. They banned major retailers from distributing single-use plastic bags. Since then, smaller retailers have been required to charge at least 10 cents per plastic bag, encouraging customers to save money and bring their own.
Hawaii does not allow retailers to provide non biodegradable bags in any of their most populous counties. They also require that paper bags must be made of at least 40% recycled materials.
New York State recently banned single-use plastic bags and the law will go into effect in 2020. Five other states have placed restrictions on single-use plastic, including stricter recycling rules.
Five American cities have created their own legislation banning plastic bags and five others have taken a page from California's book and require retailers to charge for bags.
Switch to Reusable Bags in Your Own Store
Some companies have taken it upon themselves to eliminate the use of plastic bags or charge a fee for them, regardless of city or state laws.
Studies have found that people prefer to do their shopping with companies that have ethical practices. You may be worried that eliminating the plastic bag option from your store will anger or frustrate customers. Chances are, however, that they will appreciate your effort to make a positive impact.
Plus, providing an alternative, reusable option can bring in some extra revenue! Bagz Depot gives you the option to buy reusable bags in bulk for an affordable price. Make the investment in reusable bags that you can offer to your customers and you're certain to turn a profit!
Go the extra mile for your business and get your logo printed on your reusable canvas tote bags. That way, every time your customers reach for your reusable bags, they're sharing your logo with every passerby and giving you some extra advertising and unlimited exposure!
Don't let your customers walk away with hundreds of single-use plastic bags every day. Encourage them to do better and shop conscientiously.
Make the Change in Your Own Life
When you break down the numbers of plastic bag use in America, each person uses an average of over 300 plastic bags a year. From the time you're 20 years old to the time you turn 80, that's almost 20,000 plastic bags.
Make a commitment to yourself and to the planet to reduce your use of single-use plastic. Invest in a few reusable bags and bring them with you when you shop. Even if they only last five years before they need to be replaced, that's 1,500 plastic bags you haven't used!
Encourage others in your life to do the same and talk to your local and state politicians about your goals to reduce plastic bags. You have more power to make change than you think if you know where to turn!
Let's Ditch These Plastic Bag Problems
We know we're tired of using plastic bags, and hopefully, you are too! Plastic bags and the environment do not make a good match, and it's time to get serious about climate change.
If you're looking for a place to get reusable tote bags, look no further. BagzDepot is the place to go for all of your reusable bag needs from organic cotton bags to wholesale canvas tote bags, choices are infinite to become eco-friendly with BagzDepot!
If you have questions about our products or your order, contact us today. Together, we can make the world more sustainable!