Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
The following post was contributed by David Asselin, Executive Director of the American Plastic Bag Alliance (APBA). Founded in 2005, APBA is a group of American plastic bag manufacturers representing a thriving and growing industry employing 30,800 American workers in 2010.
You might have seen this infographic purporting to reveal “the dangers of plastic bags” circulating over the past couple weeks. The problem is, rather than sharing factual information, the ‘facts’ promoted by this artist’s rendition of a collection of myths paint a misleading picture of how plastic bags impact our lives and our environment and isn’t based off any real science or research. Allow me a moment to share a few key examples of the facts, and exactly where and how this infographic falls short…
- Plastic bags are not made of oil. The infographic claims that the manufacturing of plastic bags requires “37 billion barrels of oil… each year.” In fact, American-made plastic bags are made from a combination of natural gas and post-consumer content, NOT oil.
- Plastic bag recycling rates are significant and on the rise. The infographic also claims, “that less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled each year.” This couldn’t be further from the truth! Thanks to an industry-wide push and innovations to recycling technology and equipment, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the recycling rate of polyethylene bags, sacks and wraps increased to 14.7% in 2010 – that’s a 23.8% increase from 2009. Now, according to a recent report, between 91-93% of
Americans have access to plastic bag recycling! With more and more Americans expressing interest in doing more to help the environment, educating consumers about plastic bag recycling is a key step towards a greener future by keeping plastic bags in the recycling stream where they can be made into a variety of new products.
- There is no ‘floating island’ of plastic debris. One of the more creative claims that surfaces from time to time is related to a fictional mass of plastic waste “twice the size of the continental United States” in the Pacific Ocean. While this paints a very dramatic picture, like many urban legends, this claim has been debunked
- Inks used on plastic bags are lead and toxin free. Another claim promoted by this infographic is related to “lead and toxins” purportedly used in the manufacture of plastic bags – when in reality only non-toxic inks are used to make American plastic bags. In fact, there are many state laws regulating lead and toxins ensuring that plastic bags and other products are safely made. Like many other claims in this infographic, there is no actual scientific source for this alarmist claim.
- Experts agree that in many ways, plastic bags are the environmentally-preferable option at the grocery check-out. If only the solution to “save landfills and oceans” were a simple matter of banning plastic bags… but the truth is never quite so simple. In fact, experts agree plastic bags are more resource efficient, take up less landfill space and generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions than common alternatives like paper bags and reusable cotton totes. Specifically, a study found that cotton bags have to be reused 131 times before becoming a ‘greener’ option than plastic bags, yet on average consumers uses them only 52 times. That means
that on average cotton bags are a less ecologically-friendly option than plastic bags; they simply end up in landfills without ever achieving their eco-friendly promise.
While I could go on, this is just another trendy infographic using unfounded fears and myths to make customers question a useful product like plastic bags. To get more info on plastic bag recycling, check out this infographic about recycling.
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