I. Why are plastic bags so common?
Plastic bags cost grocery stores under 2 cents per bag. Plastic bags are so cheap to produce, sturdy, plentiful, easy to carry and store.
II. In what other ways is plastic used?
Plastic detergent bottles, peanut butter jars, water bottles, soft oil bottles, cooking oil bottles, cups, plastic tableware, food storage containers, yogurt containers, drinking straws, tupperwares, milk jugs, etc.
III. What are the benefits of plastic bags?
The plastic bag is an icon of convenience culture, by some estimates the single most ubiquitous consumer item on Earth, numbering in the trillions. Plastic grocery bags are some of the most reused items around the house. Compared to paper grocery bags, plastic grocery bags consume 40 percent less energy, generate 80 percent less solid waste, produce 70 percent fewer atmospheric emissions, and release up to 94 percent fewer waterborne wastes, according to the federation.
IV. What are the dangers of plastic bags?
The inks and colorants used on some bags contain lead, a toxin. There are a lot of animals that live on the bottom: shrimp, shellfish, and they get trapped in the plastic. Only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled worldwide -- about 2 percent in the U.S. -- and the rest, when discarded, can persist for centuries. It takes months to hundreds of years for plastic bags to breakdown. Plastic doesn't biodegrade.
V. What has been done so far?
Grand efforts are under way to recycle plastic bag. Some states are attacking the recycling problem by trying to encourage shoppers to take the bags back to grocery stores. Some plastic bags are being downcycled, meaning that they're being put into another product that itself can never be recycled. Plastic bag litter has become such an environmental nuisance and eyesore that Ireland, Taiwan, South Africa, Australia, and Bangladesh have heavily taxed the totes or banned their use outright.
VI. Has it been successful? Why or why not?
So far those efforts have resulted mostly in a mass of confusion.The campaign of returning bags in San Francisco for over 10 years, and it's never really been successful. People have to pack up the bags, bring them into the store and drop them off. I think you'd be more inclined to bring your own bag than do that.Tony Lowes, director of Friends of the Irish Environment in County Cork, said the 15 cent tax on plastic bags introduced there in March 2002 has resulted in a 95 percent reduction in their use. "It's been an extraordinary success," he said.