Reusable tote 1200

Plastic bags are convenient, but also pose a threat to our marine life if not disposed or recycled properly. Because of its shape and lightweight, plastic bags easily get picked up by the wind or carried away in the water down storm drains and into our creeks, lakes and bays.

While in their original form, seabirds or mammals can entangle themselves in plastic bags, when broken down into smaller pieces, diverse species (seabirds, turtles, fish) misperceive them as food causing a range of problems. When degraded into microplastic particles, these become part of our food chain by ingestion of fish, mussels, oysters and many other marine life.


Plastic Production is Rising

For the last 20 years, worldwide production of plastic has been increasing at an average rate of 5% per year. In 2011, 32 millions tons of plastic were produced in the US alone, a large part of that is used in packaging. (PlasticsEurope Market Research Group)

graph by Plastic Europe

272,399 Plastic Bags Picked Up

In 2020, volunteers picked up 272,399 plastic bags in coastal cleanups across the world. Plastic bags are consistently in the top 10 types of trash collected during cleanup days worldwide (Ocean Conservancy, 2021).

17.7% of Municipal Waste Steam is Plastic

Close to 18% of our municipal solid waste stream in 2013 was made of plastic materials, and that is after recycling and composting. (EPA, 2013).

Political Movement Against Plastic Bags

Worldwide, measures to limit or inhibit the single use of lightweight shopping bags are being put in place. Fees and bans can have a positive effect but require consequent enforcement see a list of current bans and taxes on Wikipedia, 2021.

Things You Can Do

Sell Good Quality Totes

Have your logo printed on shopping totes and sell them inexpensively to customers . Offer them at the cash register, and train your employees to offer them to customers who do not have their own bags already.

Carry More than One Type of Tote

There are variety of shopping totes out there, provide your customers with a range of bags from cloth shopping totes to foldable totes to bins for their car.

Use Fewer Bags

Train your staff to be efficient about their bag usage. Items like gallon jugs or big boxes, probably do not need their own bag.

Offer Plastic Bag Recycling

Offer a 5¢ refund for returned plastic bags or at least have a place where customers can return their used plastic bags.

Switch to Biodegradable Bags

Biodegradable bags that are fully compostable do not leach harmful chemicals as they degrade. They also take months as opposed to years to degrade and can break down quickly in salt water, in the open air, and buried in the ground.


Biodegradable Bags from BioBag

BioBag is one of several plastic bag manufacturers that produce biodegradable bags.

The Guardian

Article from The Guardian about lessons from Rwanda's ban on plastic bags.

Related Actions

Join a Community Cleanup

Community cleanups are a social, hands-on way that teens can help cleanup the litter and debris that gets washed down storm drains and into our waterways where it can pollute the water and injure marine creatures.

Types of Pollution

When water rushes off hardened surfaces, erosion of sediments degrade water conditions and smother and disrupt seagrass growth and the habitat for benthic organisms they provide.

Compounds like oil, grease, and heavy metals take a long time to break down and threaten the health of both aquatic and human life.

Litter is not only unsightly, but it also causes a variety of problems to the ecosystem as it enters our waters where it is often is mistaken for food by fish and invertebrates.

Too much fertilizer, pet waste, and other nutrients in our water often lead to serious problems like lowering dissolved oxygen levels, preventing seagrass growth, and killing fish.

Disease-causing microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and other single-celled organisms, are referred to as pathogens, some, like Salmonella, cause human health problems.

While pesticides are designed to be toxic to certain organisms, they can often be harmful and kill other species in the marine system that are important for the entire ecosystem.