Plastic Bags: Environmentally Harmful and Completely Unnecessary
According to the EPA, between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. Americans alone throw away over 100 billion bags a year.
Every hour, approximately 200,000 plastic bags are landfilled and may take 1,000 years to break down. For the plastic bags that become litter, rain washes them into bodies of water where they threaten the lives of avian and marine species that can die from consuming or choking on the bags. Plastic pollution travels through our local waterways, eventually reaching the global oceans. On average, 46,000 pieces of plastic are swirling in each square mile of our oceans.
The impacts of plastic bag pollution have ignited a global movement to dramatically reduce the amount of disposable plastic shopping bags. Promoting reusable bags and plastic bag recycling are just one of the many ways to protect our waterways and wildlife. CCE works with the public, as well as local and state governments, to reduce the plastic bag pollution.
Plastic Bags Endanger Wildlife and our Waterways
The mass consumption of plastic products has created a plastic wasteland in our Ocean. Great ocean currents combined with large amount of non-biodegradable waste have resulted in two swirling vortexes—twice the size of Texas—full of plastic trash. These vortexes did not exist 50 years ago.
The proliferation of plastic waste endangers fish and wildlife. A 2005 study found that almost 200 species of marine life are adversely affected by plastic bag pollution. Tens of thousands of whales, birds, seals, and turtles are killed annually from plastic bags. Fish and wildlife mortalities are caused by:
- Restricting mobility
- Disrupting digestion
Marine animals often mistake plastic bags for food, such as jellyfish. Once eaten, the bags cannot be processed and block the digestive system, making it very difficult for animals to get proper nutrition, and can lead to a slow and painful death from starvation or dehydration. To make matters worse, when the creature dies and decomposes, the plastic bags will be re-released into the environment.
How You Can Help:
Reduce plastic bag pollution by remembering the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle.
Reduce – Go bagless! Only use plastic bags when absolutely necessary.
Reuse – Bring your own bag! Reusable bags are more durable and readily available to fit any style and need.
Recycle – Return plastic bags to the store! Grocery stores often collect clean plastic bags at the front of the store.
Currently only 0.6 - 2.0% of bags are recycled. Do your part to reduce plastic bag pollution!
CCE supports efforts to increase public education efforts to change consumer practices, phasing out disposable bag use, providing in-store recycling of plastic bags, promoting reusable bags by prominently displaying reminders in and outside of stores. You can help by contacting your elected officials and tell them you support disposable bag reduction programs.
Bag Legislation Watch
Victory! Village of East Hampton, NY, bans plastic bag checkout bags and encourages reusable bag use
A ban passed on July 29, 2011 throughout the eastern Long Island village of East Hampton bans the use of plastic bags and encourages the use of reusable bags, at retail checkouts. CCE testified at this public hearing before the village board and the resolution passed that day unanimously, 3-0. With that vote, East Hampton became the second municipality in New York to make the pro-active choice to move away from plastic bags.
Read CCE’s testimony delivered to the board in support of this resolution
Victory! Village of Southampton, NY, bans plastic checkout bags and paper bags made out of non-recyclable material
A ban passed in April, 2011 gives retailers until fall 2011, until they are no longer permitted to distribute plastic bags to consumers. CCE testified at Village hall in support of the legislation, and the resolution passed two weeks later in a 5-0 vote, making the Village the first municipality in New York State to have plastic bag legislation.
Victory! Town of Westport, CT, bans plastic checkout bags in favor of reusable bags
On Tuesday, September 2, 2008, the Westport Representative Town Meeting (RTM) approved a resolution, in a 26 to 5 vote (with 1 abstention), giving retailers six months to stop using disposable plastic bags at the checkout. This resolution was the first of its kind east of the Mississippi.
Update! Westport’s historic ban of plastic bags has resulted in a 70% increase in the use of reusable bags. Westport’s residents have enthusiastically responded to the ban.
Victory! City of Rye, NY, bans plastic bags and non-recyclable paper bags at checkout counter
On Wednesday, December 7, 2011, the Rye City Council unanimously passed a local law that will ban disposable plastic bags and non-recyclable paper bags in the community on May 7, 2011. CCE testified in support of this commonsense law. The City of Rye is the third municipality to pass legislation of this kind in NYS.
Victory! Village of Mamaroneck, NY, bans plastic bags and non-recyclable paper bags at retail check-outs
On July 16, 2012, the Mamaroneck Village Council passed a local law that will ban plastic bags and non-recyclable paper bags at checkout counters, and will allow only reusable and recyclable paper bags starting in January 2013. The Village of Mamaroneck is the second Long Island Sound community in Westchester County to ban disposable bags to protect local open spaces and water resources. CCE testified at public hearings and secured dozens of Mamaroneck residents to sign petitions and write letters supporting this law.
|View a slideshow on plastic bags from the Pocono Record:||Watch Synthetic Sea: Plastic in the Open Ocean (7:08 min), by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, 2001:|
For more information:
Let’s work together to avoid impacts to our wildlife!
Updated by jchristensen 8/24//12