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4 Things You Didn’t Know About Plastic Bags

single use plastic bag


earth day 2021

Happy Earth Day! This is our last post in our five-week Earth Month series. Get the facts about single-use plastic bags, and find the very best zero-waste swaps (at a discount and through giveaways) to help you kick the plastic habit.

plastic bag pollution

Get the Facts: Single-Use Plastic Bags

1. Plastic bags disproportionally impact vulnerable communities

Plastic production impacts marginalized communities at an alarming rate during every step of the process, from production to disposal. Small, lightweight plastic bags seem so harmless. They’re easy to grab and fill with the day’s snacks or sandwich, easy to pack—and of course easy to toss. The problem is that billions of people follow this grab-and-go routine every day, and people living in vulnerable communities are most impacted. Extraction and transportation of raw materials, manufacturing, and disposal—either in landfills or by burning—all pollute air and water and adversely effect low-income and BIPOC communities. The Atlantic calls this Environmental Racism: people of color face an increased risk of exposure to the effects of plastic pollution.

2. In some parts of the world plastic bags are illegal

In 2017, Kenya initiated one of the world’s strictest laws agains plastic bag use. If you are caught producing, selling or using a plastic bag in Kenya you will risk imprisonment for up to four years or fines of up to $40,000. Worldwide, one trillion single-use plastic bags are used every year—nearly 2 million every minute—so policy to control their use is on the rise. Countries and cities all over the world have also banned or taxed single-use plastic bags including Australia, India, Montreal, Taiwan, Rwanda, France and Morocco.

3. Single-use plastic bags are linked to climate change

A recent study found that plastic contributes to harmful greenhouse gas emissions at every point in the plastic production lifecycle. Because plastic manufacturing requires oil and gas, the drilling of these materials leads to methane leaks and flares, and often wetland and forest destruction. Deforestation is especially harmful because it reduces plant material that would have sequestered carbon, and increases biodiversity loss and community displacement. Refineries involved in plastic production are highly polluting and energy intensive. If plastic production continues at its current pace, by 2030 the resulting greenhouse gas emissions could be equal to building 300 new coal-fired power plants.

4. Throwing your plastic bag “away” doesn’t mean it actually goes away

Plastic bags don’t compost or biodegrade. Once in the ocean, the sun, wind, and waves break down plastic bags into small particles. “These so-called microplastics are spread throughout the water column and have been found in every corner of the globe, from Mount Everest, the highest peak, to the Mariana Trench, the deepest trough.” Plastic bags are especially insidious because they are harmful to animals at every stage. Marine life confuse plastic bags for jellyfish, can become entangled in plastic bags, and eat tiny microscopic plastic particles. A recent study found plastic in 90 percent of seabirds and 100 percent of turtles tested.

reusable round container

Flash Sale + Giveaway

The good news? Single-use plastic baggies are one of easiest things to do without. Head over to the U-Konserve Instagram to enter our Earth Day Countdown Giveaway for a chance to win a set of square reusable nesting containers, and ukonserve.com to get 30% off all reusables with code EARTHDAY30 (for all orders over $75) through April 25, 2021. It’s easy to reuse!