The Problem With Plastic Bags

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In Waterville:

  • There are approximately 16,000 residents of Waterville.

  • If we each use about 300 plastic bags per year, that means Waterville uses 4,800,000 every year!

  • That’s 72 plastic bags in each of the 66,829 seats in Gillette Stadium!

In The United States

  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year.

  • According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion).

  • The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.


  • A person uses a plastic carrier bag on average for only 12 minutes.

  • On average we only recycle one plastic bag in every 200 we use.

  • Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. 

  • Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.

Plastic Bags in the Environment

Plastic bags, like other plastics, do not biodegrade, they only “photodegrade” in sunlight, breaking slowly into microscopic bits– a process scientists estimate takes thousands of years.

Meanwhile, the environment is paying the price:

  • Over 46,000 pieces of mainly plastic litter are now estimated to be floating on every square mile of ocean

  • In total, there are approximately 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the ocean, amounting to 269,000 tons

  • Plastic particles form with other debris into 5 large swirling “garbage patches.” Between 60 – 95% of the debris is plastic

  • Wildlife entanglements in bags are 3rd most common problem (after fishing lines and nets)

  • Micro-plastics work their way up the food chain and on to our dinner plates, with potentially adverse health consequences

  • Plastic bags have become a fixture in trees, landfills, roadsides, oceans and back yards

The Best Solution

Reusable bags are the best environmental solution.  They  are designed to be used up to hundreds of times.  Assuming the bags are reused at least a few times, they have significantly lower environmental impacts, on a per use basis, than single-use bags.  When used again and again, reusable bags actually cost less per use than either plastic or paper single-use bags AND they reduce litter, saving communities thousands of dollars in clean-up costs.

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