June 23, 2009

It's a Big Ol' Plastic World

Why are we doing what we're doing, particularly trying to eliminate the amount of plastic we throw away?

Here are some facts:

• According to estimates by the EPA and the Wall Street Journal, the United States uses over 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. That’s 100,000,000,000! Or 275 million bags each and every day of the year!

• Worldwide an astounding 500 billion to one trillion plastic shopping bags are used each year.

• An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to produce every 100 billion plastic shopping bags.

• An estimated 100,000 whales, seals, turtles and other marine animals die each year by plastic bags due to ingestion and/or entanglement, according to Planet Ark, an international environmental group.

• Based on decomposition studies, plastics buried in landfills take up to 1,000 years to decompose. This is an extremely long time period relative to other decomposition rates. It takes a banana peel approximately 3-4 weeks to decompose; a paper bag, one month; a cotton rag, 5 months; a wool sock, one year; lumber, 10 – 15 years; and an aluminum can, 200 – 500 years.

• Plastic bags do not actually biodegrade, rather they photo-degrade, meaning they slowly break down into smaller and smaller toxic pieces that contaminate both soil and waterways.

• It is estimated that the United States goes through 2.5 MILLION plastic bottles every hour. That’s over 22 BILLION plastic bottles in the United States alone, according to Recycling-Revolution.

• According to Earth 911, less than 20% of the plastic bottles consumed in the U.S. will end up in a landfill and only 13% will be recycled.

• It takes more than 15 million barrels of oil (not including those used for transport) to manufacture the estimated 22 billion plastic bottles the U.S. uses annually. Incidentally, that’s enough to fuel about 100,000 cars for an entire year.

• It takes more than 3 liters of water to create one liter of bottled water and recycling a single plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60-watt light bulb for up to six hours.

• Over 171 billion liters of bottled water was consumed in 2007 worldwide.

The numbers are staggering. And while one family's efforts can't change the tide, maybe one hundred families can. Will you help?

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