500 million - 1 trillion consumed worldwide.
That's over 1 million per minute.
Plastic bags are a no go. This one seems pretty obvious, but trust me, for a lot of people it isn't. I get it, it's really convenient when you drop by somewhere unexpectedly and have nothing with you. But I feel like most of the time, when you're doing groceries or going shopping, you set out to do these things in advance. You left your house knowing you were going to need a bag to put things in. So before leaving your house, that little lightbulb in your head should turn on and remind you to bring a (cotton/reusable plastic/whatever) bag or backpack, so you won't need to ask for a single use (plastic) bag in the store. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, that lightbulb doesn't turn on just yet. But it will after reading this post! Oh an FYI, this awesome drawing is created by Carla Scotto, who makes really cool images about sad truths: check out her instagram page!
- The average lifespan of a single-use plastic bag is 12 minutes
- On average 1/200 plastic bags is recycled
- Plastic bags aren't biodegradable, they're photodegradable: they break down into really small toxic bits that contaminate the soil
- That process can take between 400 to 1.000 years
- Those toxic bits are ingested by animals and end up on our plates (yikes!)
- Just like every other piece of plastic, plastic bags are made of crude oil
- About 25% of the bags used in the west are made in Asia, so think of all the fossil fuels that have to be used just to be transported all the way here
- Out of the almost 1 trillion plastic bags consumed worldwide, billions of those end up as litter. Because of their light weight, they manage to escape and float/fly away from landfills. They end up everywhere they're not supposed to be, especially the ocean, where they're often mistaken for food by marine animals
- 100.000 sea turtles and other marine animals die each year because of plastic bags
Some pretty scary facts, right? I know, shocking! It really frustrates me when I'm in a store and I see someone accept a plastic bag, even though they have a giant backpack with tons of room.. I don't get it. I always feel like interrupting and saying "excuse me, I don't think you actually need that.. You have enough room right here, in the bag you're already carrying!" but I don't want to come across as an arrogant person, so I just hold my tongue. I don't even know where people keep all the bags they get anyway. But okay, enough negative vibes. It does make me happy to see that a lot of countries are taking (baby) steps to get rid of plastic bags. We'll get there one day, I'm sure of it!
Are paper bags better?
Plastic bags have luckily been banned or taxed in a lot of countries (or states in the US), which means that paper bags are now being offered as an alternative. I hate to be the one to bring you the bad news, but .. paper bags are even worse. Yes, I swear, plastic bags have a smaller environmental impact than paper bags: they outperform paper bags on resource use, manufacturing, reuse and solid waste. If you don't believe me, here are some more facts I found while doing some research:
- on resource use and manufacturing: paper bags consume 2,2 times more non-renewable energy, need 4,7 times more water, emit 3,1 more greenhouse gasses and 2,7 times more acid gases than the manufacture of plastic bags
- on reuse: paper bags tear way quicker, so can't be reused as often as plastic bags
- on solid waste: paper bags take up a lot more space and they weigh more, which leads to additional waste, waste management and recycle costs
- recycling: both bags are highly recyclable, but paper bags do tend to be recycled more often than plastic bags
So what research is saying, is that we're simply shifting the environmental impact from less litter to more resource use and more greenhouse gas emissions. Ok, I guess we're back with the negative vibes, oops.
You can change! Refuse single-use bags. Try to remind yourself to take a reusable bag with you wherever you go: most of them are so small and don't take up much room in your bag! My favorite bag is the one my mom gave me: it's one she had when she was my age. They're really practical because you can make them as small or big as you like: perfect! I also have one in black. You can buy them in different colors on the Fringe by A webshop (yay for Belgian brands!): check them out! There are so many other options, you can get reusable bags everywhere nowadays. It's just a matter of remembering to bring one!
Try to think of me the next time you leave to go do groceries! Just me, screaming at you to bring your reusable bag to the store haha. No seriously though, I hope that lightbulb will turn on every single time from now on!
From the desert with love xoxo