Plastic Bags Are Free – Myth Busted

Published On January 31, 2011

Some of us recycle them and also use recycled bags even referring to them as environmentally friendly green bags. Many of us still use them around our home because they were given to us at no charge for years. So you think that plastic bags were or are still free? Read this article and you will know how much they are really costing you.

  • Costing you at the supermarket. Plastic bags recycled or not cost US retailers 1 billion dollars a year and Australian retailers close to 100 million dollars a year. If you think that you are getting that for free then you need to think again. All the cost of those bags are built into the cost of what we are buying. The government in China implemented an immediate ban on any free plastic bags and charged a tax of around 5c per bag that a customer takes only a few years ago. This has radical effect. Free plastic bags are not free, you are paying for them.
  • Cost of recycling. The collection, hauling, disposing and even recycling plastic bags makes them very expensive. All of these costs are transferred in one way or another down to us as consumers either through taxes or other hidden fees. Let alone in the damage to our environment which  just has to be repaired and once again a cost directly hitting our hip pocket. Pollution is not just a cost figure that is floating in the air, each and everyone one of us is affected.
  • Marine wildlife damage. Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags and shopping bags mistaken for food, even before they do bio-degrade. Turtles think the bags are jellyfish, their primary food source. Once swallowed, plastic bags choke animals or block their intestines, leading to an agonising death.
  • Future damage. When plastic bags eventually break down, which can take up to a thousand years, small plastic particles can pose threats to marine life and contaminate our land and the food web . It has been scientifically shown that plastic debris acts like a sponge for toxic chemicals, soaking up a million fold greater concentration of such deadly compounds as PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of the notorious insecticide DDT), than the surrounding seawater. Think of all the damage of all of the plastic bags that the people on the planet have used up to now, and the costs of this damage will go on for at least another 1000 years.

There are many more areas of cost and damage that plastic bags have been costing us and will be costing us for many years to come. The next time a company tries to give your a so called free plastic bag, or plastic instead of truly responsible promotional bags, refuse. Plastic bags are not free, never were free, and will be costing us long into the future.