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Learn the Facts

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Solid materials, typically waste, that has found its way to the marine environment is called marine debris. It is known to be the cause of injuries and deaths of numerous marine animals and birds, either because they become entangled in it or they mistake it for prey and eat it5. Read More
  • At least 267 different species are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales and fish. The scale of contamination of the marine environment by plastic debris is vast. It is found floating in all the world’s oceans, everywhere from polar region to the equator5. Read More
  • The world’s largest landfill can be found floating between Hawaii and San Francisco. Wind and sea currents carry marine debris from all over the world to what is now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This “landfill” is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and thousands of pounds of our discarded trash, mostly plastics6. Read More
  • It would take you a week to boat across the million of tons of garbage strewn across the “Patch.” The garbage reaches depths of nearly 100 feet in some places7. Read More
  • The garbage Patch has a great effect on the ecosystems on and around the Hawaiian Islands. Scientists find many seabird skeletons on the Hawaiian Islands whose “gut content is just filled with plastic.” As the larger animals and marine life eat the smaller animals, the plastic eventually ends up in the human food supply, too8. Read More
  • The reason that turtles ingest marine debris is not known with certainty. It has been suggested that debris, such as plastic bags, look similar to, and are mistaken for jellyfish. Studies on dead turtles reported ingestion of marine debris in 79.6% of the turtles that were examined from the Western Mediterranean (Tomas et al. 2002), 60.5% of turtles in Southern Brazil (Bugoni et al. 2001) and 56% of turtles in Florida (Bjordal et al. 1994)5 Read More
  • According to a 2006 report from the U.N. Environment Programme, every pound of plankton in the central Pacific Ocean is offset by about 6 pounds of litter. The report adds that every square mile of ocean is home to nearly 50,000 pieces of litter, much of which tends to harm or kill wildlife that either ingests the plastic or gets trapped in discarded netting9. Read More
  • Each year the United States consumes 30 billion plastic and 10 billion paper grocery bags, requiring 14 million trees and 12 million barrels of oil10.
  • The average American uses 300 to 700 plastic bags per year. If everyone in the United States tied their annual consumption of plastic bags together in a giant chain, the chain would reach around the Earth 760 times!

BACKGROUND ON SINGLE-USE PLASTIC BAGS:

  • First introduced in 1977 as an alternative to paper bags, plastic bags now account for 4 out of every 5 bags handed out at grocery stores.2
  • Plastic bags are difficult to recycle for the same reasons they are convenient to use. They are so light they fly out of curbside recycling bins, which often lack lids. If they make it to a recycling plant, the bags tend to wrap themselves around machinery, gumming it up. So, most curbside recycling programs don’t accept them. EPA research has shown  that only 1 percent of plastic bags get recycled.3
  • Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.4

BACKGROUND ON SINGLE-USE PAPER BAGS

  • Each year the United States consumes 10 billion paper grocery bags, requiring 14 million trees.10
  • According to the EPA, paper bags generate 70 percent more air pollution and 50 times more water pollution than plastic bags2.
  • Five industries account for 68 percent of all energy used in the industrial sector.  Pulp and paper accounts for 6 percent of energy usage making it the fourth largest contributor11.

Sources:

1. The Environmental Literacy Council. Paper or Plastic? 2008 – View Full Article
2. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Questions About Your Community: Shopping Bags: Paper or Plastic or …? – View Full Article
3. Wall Street Journal. Paper or Plastic? A New Look at the Bag Scourge. – View Full Article by Jeffrey Ball
4. National Geographic News. Giant Ocean-Trash Vortex Attracts ExplorersView Full Article by Brian Handwerk
5. Greenpeace. Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans. – View Full Report by Allsopp, Walters, Santillo, and Johnston
6. National Geographic News. Are Plastic Grocery Bags Sacking the Environment? – View Full Article by John Roach
7. Gloucester Times. Taking Our Own Steps to Fight Ocean Pollution. View Full Article by Heidi Pearson
8. CNN.com. Scientists Study ‘Garbage Patch’ in Pacific Ocean. View Full Article by Shelby Lin Erdman
9. New York Times. Recyclers, Scientists Probe Great Pacific Garbage Patch. View Full Article by Colin Sullivan
10. National Cooperative Grocers Association. Paper or Plastic? NCGA Suggests Neither.View Full Article
11. Energy Information Administration. International Energy Outlook 2009, Industrial Sector Energy Consumption. View Full Article

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