Testimonials

"Over the past year the Green Bag has been responsible for supplying over 200 000 bags to our 450 offices throughout Australia on a regular basis. When researching potential companies to use I found Green Bag's products to be one of the highest quality on the market and the bags were compe...


Emily Hill, Marketing Executive, Raine & Horne Pty Limited

 

 

 

 

 

 


Single-use bag facts: an overview
Paper or Plastic? Neither!

Single-use paper bags also have their share of problems. Have a read of the facts below to find out more.

 

By purchasing sturdy reusable bags, bringing them to the store with you every time you shop, and taking care of them to prolong their lasting life, you are helping to protect our environment now and for future generations.

 
 

Categories:

 

Plastic (Polyethylene Bags)

            Bag Usage Statistics
            Bag Life Cycle
            Depletion of Natural Resources
            Effects on Planetary Ecosystems
Paper
            Bag Usage Statistics
            Bag Life Cycle
            Depletion of Natural Resources
            Effects on Planetary Ecosystems
 
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Plastic (Polyethylene Bags)
 
 
Bag Usage Statistics: How big of a problem are we facing?
 
United States:
  • In the United States, Californians Against Waste estimate that Americans consume 84 billion plastic bags annually. (1)
 
 
Australia:
  • Australians alone consume about 6.9 billion plastic bags each year, that's 326 per person. According to Australia's Department of Environment, an estimated 49,600,000 annually end up as litter. (2)
 

Around the World:

  • Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. (3)
 

Bag Life Cycle & Recycling: What is required to produce a plastic bag? What happens to plastic bags after they are discarded?

 
  • For plastic (polyethylene) bags, the steps involve petroleum or natural gas extraction, ethylene manufacture, ethylene polymerization, bag processing, product use and waste disposal. In all of these steps, energy is required and wastes are generated. (4)
 
  • Each year, Americans throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags. (Only 0.6 percent of plastic bags are recycled.) (5)
  • In a landfill, plastic bags take up to 1,000 years to degrade. (6)
 

Effects on our planetary resources and ecosystems:

 
  • Plastic bags consume a huge quantity of oil, an energy source that in recent months has hovered at more than $100 per barrel on international markets. Experts estimate that China refines nearly 5 million tons (37 million barrels) of crude oil each year, or one-third of its imported oil, to make plastics used for packaging. (7)
 
  • The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that 46,000 pieces of plastic litter— including bits of packaging, cigarette lighters, plastic bags, and diapers—are floating on every square mile of the oceans, a figure that has increased threefold since the 1960s. (8)
  • At least 267 species have been scientifically documented to be adversely affected by plastic marine debris (9)
 
  • Marine conservation groups estimate that more than a million seabirds and 100,000 mammals and sea turtles die globally each year by getting tangled in or ingesting plastics. (10)
  • All plastic products that enter our marine environment eventually break down into small fragments, which in some areas of the ocean outweigh plankton by a factor of six and are inextricably altering the marine ecosystem. (11)
    
 
  • Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, so even when an animal dies and decays after ingesting a bag, the plastic re-enters the environment, posing a continuing threat to wildlife. While most plastic bags eventually break down into tiny particles, smaller sea creatures may still eat the sand-sized fragments and concentrate toxic chemicals in their bodies. (12)

Find out More: New Bans on Plastic Bags May Help Protect Marine Life by Alana Herro on January 9, 2008 http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5565

 
Paper
 
Bag Usage Statistics: how do paper bags compare?
 
United States:
  • In 1999, 14 million trees were cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans that year alone. (13)
 

Bag Life Cycle & Recycling: What is required to produce a paper bag? What happens to paper bags after they are discarded?

 
 
  • For paper bags, the life cycle stages consist of timber harvesting, pulping, paper and bag making, product use and waste disposal. In all of these steps, energy is required and wastes are generated. (14)
  • Current research demonstrates that paper in today's landfills does not degrade or break down at a substantially faster rate than plastic does. In fact, nothing completely degrades in modern landfills due to the lack of water, light, oxygen, and other important elements that are necessary for the degradation process to be completed. Source: ULS Report: Review of Plastic vs. Paper Bag LCA Studies (15)
 
 

Effects on our planetary resources and ecosystems: why paper bags are NOT a better choice

·        It takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag. Energy to produce the bags (in British thermal units): Safeway plastic bags: 594 BTU; Safeway paper bags: 2511 BTU. (16)

·        In 1999, 14 million trees were cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans that year alone. (17)

 
  • Paper sacks generate 70 percent more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags. (18)
  • Switching from single-use polyethylene plastic grocery bags to either paper or compostable plastic grocery bags may increase the emission of greenhouse gases and therefore contribute to global warming. (19)
 
  • Impact Summary Comparison of Paper, Compostable Plastic and Polyethylene single-use bags:

(20)  
 


 
References:
(1) http://www.alternet.org/environment/61607/
(2) http://www.reusablebags.com/facts.php
(3) http://www.reusablebags.com/facts.php
(4) http://web.archive.org/web/20060426235724/http://www.epa.gov/region1/communities/shopbags.html
(5) http://www.worldwatch.org
(6) http://www.reusablebags.com

(7) http://www.cnlinfo.net/news/20086/02073401.htm Click for translation of this article

(8)http://current.com/items/88991438_is_there_a_solution_to_the_continent_of_plastic_that_pollutes_the_pacific
(9) http://www.cawrecycles.org/issues/plastic_campaign/plastic_bags/problem
(10) http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5474
(11) http://www.cawrecycles.org/issues/plastic_campaign/plastic_bags/problem
(12) http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5565
(13) http://www.reusablebags.com/facts.php?id=7
(14) http://web.archive.org/web/20060426235724/http://www.epa.gov/region1/communities/shopbags.html

(15) (Downloadable file)

(16) http://web.archive.org/web/20060426235724/http://www.epa.gov/region1/communities/shopbags.html
(17) http://www.reusablebags.com/facts.php?id=7
(18) http://web.archive.org/web/20060426235724/http://www.epa.gov/region1/communities/shopbags.html
(19) http://www.americanchemistry.com/s_plastics/doc.asp?CID=1106&DID=7212
(20) http://www.americanchemistry.com/s_plastics/doc.asp?CID=1106&DID=7212