Bags by the Numbers
Each disposable shopping bag is typically used for less than an hour.
Plastic Bag Consumption
Paper Bag Consumption
- Year that plastic grocery bags were introduced at supermarkets1: 1977
- Estimated number of plastic bags used each year, world-wide2: 4,000,000,000,000
- Number of plastic shopping bags used each year, in the US alone3: 14,000,000,000
- Percentage of plastic bags returned for recycling2: 1
- Annual cost to US retailers for giving away "free" bags: $4,000,000,000
- Barrels of oil required for US annual plastic bag consumption4: 12,000,000
- Number of marine animals killed each year due to plastic bags5: 100,000
- Average number of pieces of plastic in each square mile of ocean6: 46,000
Plastic Bags vs. Paper Bags
- Number of paper bags consumed each year, in the US alone7: 10,000,000,000
- Number of trees cut down for paper bag consumption, in the US7: 14,000,000
Plastic bag production creates less waste than paper. However, plastic bags remain with us for a long, long time.
Plastic Bag Tax in Ireland
- Percentage energy savings in making plastics bags, rather than paper bags: 40
- Percentage in air pollution reduction from making plastic bags: 50
- Percentage of waste water reduced by making plastic bags: 94
- Number of years for a plastic bag to biodegrade as litter: 20
- Number of months for a paper bag to biodegrade as litter: 1
- Estimated number of years for a plastic bag to biodegrade in a landfill: 1,000
- Number of years for a paper bag to biodegrade in a landfill: centuries
Charging for shopping bags dramatically reduces bag consumption.
The choice is clear: Carry your own bag.
- Percentage of litter in Ireland due to plastic bags, before bag tax: 5
- Percentage drop in plastic bag consumption in Ireland,
after 15-cent bag tax introduced: 90
- Annual revenue generated by Irish bag tax: €10,000,000
Reduce, reuse, rejoice!
- Number of plastic bags prevented by the Irish bag tax, annually: 1,000,000,000
- Great Moments in Plastic Bag History. Film and Bag Federation.
- Plastic Bags: A Necessary Eyesore? Worldwatch Institute.
- Sack Tax? ABC News. December 9, 2003.
- Reusable Bags Tackle Plastic Bag Mess. Organic Trade Association.
- Sea Turtles Don't Shop. Earth Resource Foundation.
- Keep the Sea Plastic Free-Bin It. Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Heritage.
- Paper or Plastic?. Healthwell. March, 2002.
- Paper vs. Plastic Bags. Franklin and Associates. 1990.
- Litter Facts. City of San Jose, CA.
- Leave No Trace. US Bureau of Land Management.
- Irish Take Lead with Plastic Bag Levy. MSNBC. August 4, 2003.
- Irish Bag Tax Hailed Success. BBC News. August 20, 2002.
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