Plastic bag facts

Bird trapped in plastic bag

Seabirds get entangled by plastic bags and often drown.

The plastic bag is an accepted part of Canada’s shopping culture, but it shouldn’t be. Every year we use over 9 billion plastic shopping bags in Canada. That’s 17,000 bags a minute.

Here are 10 things you need to know about plastic bags:

  1. Canadians use 9-15 billion plastic shopping bags every year.
    Is that number too big to think about? Then picture this: if we tied 9 billion bags together they would circle the earth 55 times.
  2. Plastic bags are made from non-renewable resources
    Just 8.7 plastic shopping bags contain enough embodied petroleum energy to drive a car 1 km.
  3. Five minutes versus 1000 years
    The average plastic bag is used for five minutes to carry your purchases home, yet these single use plastic bags can take up to 1000 years to break down.
  4. Plastic bag recycling is inefficient
    The market price for recycled bags in Canada is $55 per tonne which is about 150,000 bags. The energy and funds required to collect and process plastic bags far exceeds the $55 market price after recycling. Recycling plastic bags just isn’t worth it.
  5. Plastic bags kill birds, wildlife, and livestock
    Plastic bags are known to kill sea birds, sea mammals and fish. Turtles, dolphins, and whales can choke or starve by confusing plastic bags for jellyfish. On land, plastic bags kill birds, livestock, and deer.
  6. Plastic bags block drains, leading to flooding
    Plastic shopping bags have been banned in Mumbai, India, and in Bangladesh after they were blamed for clogging drains and sewers, leading to severe floods that killed over 1000 people in 2005.
  7. Every piece of plastic ever made still exists
    There are approximately 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in each square mile of the world’s oceans. In some places there’s more plastic than plankton. Plastic bags are in the top 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups.
  8. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade
    Photodegradation is a chemical reaction between plastic and sunlight. It means that the plastic bags break down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest them. Yuck!
  9. Canadian plastic bags have been found as far away as Scotland
    Because plastic bags are easily transported by wind and water they can travel great distances. Plastic bags are now common everywhere from Spitsbergen (78° North latitude) to the Falkland Islands (51° South latitude).
  10. Not all litter is deliberate
    Up to 47% of wind borne litter escaping from landfills is plastic, mainly plastic bags. These end up in our forests, grasslands, waterways, and oceans. Approximately 80% of marine trash is swept by wind and rain
    off highways, streets, and landfills, down streams and rivers, and out to sea.
  11. Reusable bags are the solution
    A sturdy, reusable bag will last for years, and only needs to be used 5 times to have a lower environmental impact. Buy a bag today!