Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Another story about plastic bags

No news on the bag-banning front, though officials in the D/FW area quoted in this Star-Telegram story seem open to the idea, but what interested me was the numbers mentioned:

Estimates show that each person now uses about 130 plastic bags per year. Worldwide, billions of these bags — perhaps as many as 1 trillion — are used to help consumers carry home their purchases, according to the California-based Earth Resource Foundation.

Hilex Poly Co. Llc. is the largest U.S. producer of these plastic bags and has nine manufacturing facilities, including sites in Farmers Branch, Carrollton and Garland that employ about 2,600 Texans, said Phil Rozenski, director of marketing for Hilex.

He said much work goes into keeping the bags out of the environment, as officials promote reducing the number of bags used, reusing them and recycling them.

The bags can be used for many things, such as lining trash cans, carrying wet clothes or collecting animal waste. And he said more than 30,000 collection bins are set up nationwide, such as those at Kroger grocery stores. Hilex collects the bags from the bins and ships them to an Indiana recycling center, where they are used to make more plastic bags, Rozenski said.

Rozenski says that plastic bags are cleaner than reusable bags, which if not cleaned could carry bacteria, and that they take up less space than paper bags in landfills — if that’s where they end up.

Kroger officials tout their recycling efforts, saying they have recycled 26 million pounds of plastic since 2007. Between the store’s “bagging techniques” and reusable bags, officials estimate that they have prevented more than 150 million plastic bags from being distributed, according to a Kroger Co. sustainability report.

So many big numbers, so little context. Is that “130 plastic bags per year” estimate for every person in the world? If so, then given that the world population is approaching seven billion, then we’re talking about 900 billion bags per year, which is a hell of a lot. I wish I could tell you how many bags there are in 26 million pounds’ worth, but I can’t. If I were to take a wild guess and say there’s a thousand bags in a pound, then that’s 26 billion bags. Which sure ain’t nothing, but it’s only 2.6% of that trillion-a-year total, and that’s for four years’ worth of recycling. In other words, we’ve still got a long way to go. The good news is that there seems to be some momentum for municipalities banning the bags, and so far at least there doesn’t seem to be much organized resistance to the idea, though that may just be because Congressional Republicans are too distracted by their defense of incandescent light bulbs to have taken notice. Give them a chance, they can only do one thing at a time

Related Posts:

One Comment

  1. chasman says:

    just got back from working, as i do most summers, in los angeles. there is something of a plastic bag ban in effect there, at least in la county. grocery stores out there, like ralph’s (which is owned by kroger), do not carry plastic bags anymore. moreover, if you do not have your own re-usable grocery bags with you and you ask them for paper sacks to put your groceries in, they charge you $.10 per sack. on the other hand, the trader joe’s out there were using paper sacks and not charging, as was whole foods. also, stores like target and wal-mart did not seem to be covered by the ban. it certainly crossed my mind as i spilled out my hard-earned cents for a few paper sacks, that such a policy would not go over well in my home state.