Statistics on the Use of Plastic Bags in the United States
The first plastic bag was invented by a Swede named Sten Gustaf Thulin for the company Celloplast. Celloplast applied for and received a patent for the creation in 1965. Plastic bags didn't enter widespread use until much later, however. It wasn't until 1982 that a major US grocery chain - Kroger - adopted plastic shopping bags. Safeway soon followed suit, and plastic bags quickly became extremely popular.
How many plastic bags are used each year?
According to the United States International Trade Commission, a total of 102 billion plastic bags were used in the US in 2009 alone. Some environmental groups claim a total worldwide use of up to one trillion bags per year.
Image: Wikimedia Commons - Plastic Flowers
How many plastic bags are recycled?
Although all plastic bags can be recycled, the recycling rates are fairly low. In the US, only 7% of plastic bags are recycled, although many more are likely used as garbage pail liners or reusable bags.
What are plastic bags made of?
William F. Carroll, the president of the American Chemical Society, says, "With the possible exception of a little lubricant to help in extrusion, plastic bags are pretty much just the native polymer." Small amounts of pigments are used to color bags.
Basic Plastic Bags Facts
The average plastic bag weighs about 5 grams and can support 17 pounds. Although plastic bags can take thousands of years to degrade if disposed of incorrectly, they have their environmental benefits as well. They create 80% less waste than paper bags, only half of the greenhouse gases, and require about 4% of the water used for paper bags.