Green Living :: BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag

Since the early-80s. plastic bags have become an integral part of the shopping experience, from clothes to food. Unfortunately, we are now realizing that this mass use is a great disservice to the environment. One plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. This sole statistic illustrates that using plastic is a generational detrimental.

Here are some statistics1 that are alarming:

  • 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year, worldwide.
  • About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • More than 3.5 million tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps were discarded in 2008.
  • Only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled (BBC).
  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags. This costs retailers about $4 billion a year.
  • Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts (2008)
  • Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.
  • Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.

Here are some simple changes you can make to combat this pandemic.

1. Reduce
Have your personal arsenal of shopping bags.
I prefer using my team of canvas totes. They can hold a lot of weight and have multiple uses. The best deal so far that I’ve seen is a 5 pack of oversized dual handle 100% cotton canvas totes on Amazon for $19.99 + $7.99 shipping. I always have at least one small reusable bag in my purse for last minute shopping.

2. Reduce
Instead of throwing away plastic bags you may have acquired while shopping, reuse them when shopping again. If they contained food, you can rinse them out and store for later use. At work, keep a plastic bag at work for last minute or unexpected purchases.

3. Recycle
Bags can be return to retail stores that provide plastic bags. For example, the Gap has a bin for accepting returned plastic bags. New York’s 4th Street Food Co-op reuses bags dropped of by members and shoppers to bag purchases.

New York state has a plastic bag recycling law “which requires large retail stores and shopping malls, and medium to large chain stores to accept clean plastic bags for recycling”2 which started in January 2009. So next time your going to you favorite store or mall, make sure to bring your overstock of bags to recycle.

I hope that you will begin to implement these tips into your everyday life. Using one reusable bag or recycling one plastic bag, can save 100 bags from being used over the course of a year.

1 Statistic provided by

2 NY State’s Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling Act


YGL staff