Fact Sheet

Production of Single-Use Plastics:

  • For every 13 plastic grocery bags produced, there is enough petroleum to make one gallon of gasoline.
  • Americans go through ~100 billion plastic bags annually!
  • Plastic bag production adds to the emissions of dangerous greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.
  • One out of every three servings of water in the U.S. now comes in a container, which equates to 45 million water bottles per day.
  • 1.5 million barrels of oil is used each year to manufacture plastic water bottles. (That’s enough to run 100,000 cars for a whole year!)

Plastics’ Pollution:

  • It is estimated that 80% of the total marine debris caused by human activities are plastic.
  • Plastics never fully breakdown in the ocean! They photodegrade into tiny pieces rather then biodegrade into nothing! In fact, our beaches worldwide are becoming more and more comprised of plastic pellets rather than sand.
  • “Plastic garbage, which decomposes very slowly, is often mistaken for food by marine animals. High concentrations of plastic material, particularly plastic bags, have been found blocking the breathing passages and stomachs of many marine species, including whales, dolphins, seals, puffins, and turtles.” (WWF-www.panda.org)
  • A 2004 Department of Ecology study done on Washington State litter elements found one-time plastic take out food containers made up 0.9% of total litter and plastic bags contributed 2.9% to the total amount
  • Of the recycled products in WA state, plastic bags made up only 13% of the total, where as paper bags made up a whopping 82%.  The national average of recycling plastic bags is at 3%!
  • A giant, eternal swirling spiral of floating trash in the Pacific ocean, about twice as large as Texas, is composed of 90% plastic, with 80% land-based debris. That’s not even taking into account the Atlantic!  These garbage patches are growing at a rate faster than we could ever clean them up!
  • Plastics leach Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs) including dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) both which are highly lipophilic (readily adsorbed into body tissue of humans and animals).
  • Plastics  also leach out the xenobiotics used to synthesize them, such as bisphenol-A and phylates, which pose hazardous effects to humans as endocrine disruptors, estrogen mimicers, and other hormone mimicers

Advocation:

  • Reducing the use of plastic bags is one of the easiest ways to cut down the use of plastics and one of the easiest to regulate.  This starts with YOU!
  • Rise Above Plastics campaign, which is specifically set forth to, “reduce the impacts of plastics in the marine environment by raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution and by advocating for a reduction of single-use plastics and the recycling of all plastics.” (riseaboveplastics.org)
  • Here in Washington State, Edmonds was the first city to ban the single-use plastic bags in grocery, drug and convenience stores.
  • The most powerful tool is to educate the public and government officials on the dangers plastic bags pose and the adverse effects they have on the aquatic life in the surrounding areas.
  • You can write your local paper! Write a letter to the editor, sparking interest in readers on the issues surrounding single-use plastic.  Ask when are we going to come to our senses and ban the bag?
  • The only real incentive in Bellingham right now to bring your own reusable shopping bag to the store is that some businesses offer a small (usually 5¢) discount.

OPTIONS:

  • We could just do nothing and hope that people will reduce their use of single-use plastics on their own. The Bring Your Own approach: BYO bag, mug, to-go container, water, etc… would be fantastic, if only people could actually be that responsible and trustworthy all the time.  This still takes education and outreach to get everyone on board.
  • Promote recycling programs.  In the past, this has proven fairly ineffective, but would reduce the plastic pollution significantly if the number of plastic bags recycled greatly increased.
  • Pass legislation in the city to tax the single use plastic bags given out our at grocery, drug and convenience stores.  This alternative could be implemented by mimicking legislation passed in Washington D.C., issuing a 5¢ fee for each paper and plastic bag.  This would:
    • bring extra revenue for the city and reduce the dependence we have as consumers on single-use plastic bags
    • bring in a projected estimated $1,352,700 raised in fees on bags
    • reduce consumption of single-use plastic bags by 70%
  • Completely ban plastic bags.  Although this is clearly the best solution for our goal, it may be too large of a step.  The average consumer and business might need time to adjust to this new paradigm.