Consequences of Convenience
Green Sangha, www.greensangha.org
We’re addicted to plastic, especially plastic bags.
If you are like 95% of US shoppers, whenever you purchase anything, it ends up in a plastic bag. In the grocery store, most of us put our vegetables and fruits as well as bulk items into single-use plastic produce bags, and all those bags end up in a single-use plastic check-out bag.
Shoppers worldwide are using 500 billion to one trillion single-use plastic bags per year.
This translates to about a million bags every minute across the globe, or 150 bags a year for every person on earth. And the number is rising.
“But plastic bags are so convenient!”
It depends on how far you are looking. A plastic bag may be convenient for a minute or two when you carry something out of the store, but consider these costs:
- Plastic bags are made from a non-renewable resource: oil!
An estimated 3 million barrels of oil are required to produce the 19 billion plastic bags used annually in California.
- Greenhouse gas emissions
Plastic manufacturing’s air pollution contributes to “global weirding” (extreme weather of all sorts).
Plastic is food for no one. It never completely breaks down.
We see bags hanging on trees, along the roadside, slipping down the storm drain, and floating in the ocean. Even when we do put them in the garbage, they don’t always make it to the landfill. 47% of landfill blow-away trash is plastic.
Manufacturing plastic releases toxins in the air, as does recycling plastic. The additives used in plastic are often toxic and can leach into our food. The surface of plastic is chemically attractive to some of the worst toxins in our environment (e.g., PCBs and pesticide metabolites).
- Harm to Marine Life
An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, one million seabirds, and countless fish worldwide are killed by plastic rubbish each year.
- Choking the ocean
Beaches on every continent are littered with plastic scraps and particles. In a 2008 surface trawl of the North Pacific Gyre, 46 pounds of plastic were found for every pound of zooplankton.
- We’re eating plastic
Fine particles of plastic are taken in by filter-feeders in the ocean. These plastic-laden creatures are then eaten by larger animals and plastics work their way up the food chain, all the way to our seafood menu.
Green Sangha’s Work
Since 2006, our actions have included:
- Co-leading a successful campaign to ban plastic check-out bags in Fairfax, California
- Working with markets in the SF Bay Area to reduce or eliminate plastic produce bags, saving an estimated 8 tons of plastic per year
- Giving over 280 presentations to over 8500 citizens
- Publishing articles in local newspapers and magazines
- Showing our plastics display in scores of festivals, conferences, and other public gatherings
- Testifying before elected councils and boards
What You Can Do
- Be the Change
- Take your reusable bags wherever you shop; if you forget it, go get it!
- Visit MyPlasticfreeLife.com to see how Beth Terry has reduced her plastic footprint creatively, and with good humor, too.
- Learn about Ban the Bag Movements & Legislation in your area.
- Learn more about Green Sangha’s Rethinking Plastics Campaign.
- Plastic State of Mind (http://bit.ly/plasticstateofmind)
- Our Problem & Solution Guide (pdf)
- This page on Facebook or other networks
- Join the Campaign. Sign up for our Email Newsletter to read about current actions and starting one in your community.
- Support Our Work. Donate to help us spread the word and produce more videos, raising awareness and catalyzing real change.
Tell us your ideas and wishes for your locality, and we can multiply our results. We can speed the “Great Turning” away from the model of industrial waste and pollution, and instead move toward sustainable communities.