It is ubiquitous – the plastic shopping bag, so handy for everything from toting groceries, newly bought dresses to disposing of pooh, may be a victim of its own success.
Plastic bags are a true menace to our ecosystems and our waste disposal goals. Barely recyclable, once discarded, they either enter our landfills or our marine ecosystem.
At least 267 species have been scientifically documented to be adversely affected by plastic marine debris. They are especially dangerous to sea turtles, who may mistake them for jellyfish, a main food source.
The first plastic sandwich bags were introduced in 1957. Department stores started using plastic bags in the late 1970s and supermarket chains introduced the bags in the early 1980s.
Plastic bags came into widespread in the early 1980s, and environmental groups estimate that 500 billion to 1 trillion of the bags are now used worldwide every year.
Australians were using nearly 7 billion bags a year and nearly 1.2 billion bags a year were being passed out free in Ireland before government restrictions set in.
The environmental group, Californians Against Waste, estimates Americans use 84 billion plastic bags annually.
Some countries are cracking down on the use of plastic bags.
Countries that have banned or taken action to discourage the use of plastic bags include Australia, Bangladesh, Ireland, Italy, South Africa and Taiwan. Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, also has banned the bags.
Numerous recent international, national, state and local reports have called for the banning or drastic reduction of plastic bags due to their environmental damage.
Cameroon still imports and uses millions of plastic bags yearly.