Plastic shopping bags being banned
First introduced in U.S. grocery stores in 1977, over 380 billion plastic shopping bags are used in the U.S. annually, according to the EPA. By 1996 four out of five grocery bags were plastic. Only a fraction of the plastic bags are recycled (0.6 percent), but about 100 billion plastic bags are thrown away by Americans. It takes a 1,000 years for plastic bags to degrade.
It is estimated that 500 trillion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used globally, or one million bags per minute. Almost 80 percent of plastic bag use is by North American and Western Europe. Asian countries produce a quarter of the plastic bags used in Western countries.
Plastic bags contain chemical additives which can be harmful to human health and the environment. Among the chemicals contained in plastic bags are lead, cadmium, mercury, and the carcinogen diethylhexyl phthalate.
Producing plastic bags requires petroleum and sometimes natural gas. The environmental organization, Californians Against Waste says that if the state of California alone cut out half of the plastic bag use over 2,000 barrels of oil would be saved, and 73,000 tons of garbage would be eliminated from landfills. According to the Worldwatch Institute, it takes 430,000 gallons of oil to produce 100 million plastic bags.