- Introduced just over 30 years ago, plastic bag consumption rate is now estimated at well over 500,000,000,000 (that’s 500 billion) plastic bags annually, or almost 1 million per minute.
- Eight billion plastic bags are handed out in the UK each year – or over 134 for every one of us. (Some sources quote the total number given out as 13 billion, 17 billion and 17.5 billion. The numbers are, uhm, plastic.)
- Once brought into existence single-use bags accumulate and persist on our planet for up to 1,000 years - but nobody really knows for sure.
- Only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled.
- Dioxins are produced when plastics are incinerated.
- Plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food.
- The average person uses each plastic bag for only 12 minutes.
- Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime.
What was life like before the plastic bag?People brought their own bags or baskets to do their shopping. Bags were made from natural, hard-wearing but biodegradable materials such as cloth, wicker cane, or jute.
Because these bags cost money to buy or some great effort to make, they were used and re-used until they were beyond repair before they were replaced.
When plastic bags were first introduced at UK supermarkets, we had to pay for them. These were the very sturdy plastic bags that could be re-used several times. The need to pay for bags was an incentive to bring our own bags.
However new technology meant that bags could be made of less plastic, and therefore became cheaper to make and retailers realized that giving away free bags induced more impulse buying.