Tips for Adults

Bring Your Own Bag

Single-use plastic bags are convenient, but because of their shape and light weight, plastic bags easily get picked up by the wind and washed down storm drains into our creeks, lakes, bays, the Gulf, and beyond. Plastic debris can harm creatures in multiple ways:

  • Plastic can be eaten by species that feed from the ocean bottom, where plastic particles sink, and also by species that feed in the water column, where plastic bits float.
  • Creatures can get entangled in discarded fishing gear or wrapped by a bag. Plastic debris on the ocean floor can alter the natural processes that keep the ecosystem functioning.
  • Some invasive species and even microbes can travel on plastic marine debris and disturb new locations.

You can help by using fewer new bags and reusing what you already have. Let’s start building a Clean Water Future by doing something small that makes a big difference


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. (Plastics Europe, 2013, ACC, 2013, EPA, 2013 via Algalita)

graph by Plastic Europe

8 Million Tons per Year

Roughly 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each year worldwide including plastic bags, plastic bottles, cutlery, and more (Jambeck et al, 2015. via NPR)

Debris on Dauphin Island Beach - Photo by Caitlin Wessel

Single Use Plastic Is a Big Deal

32 million tons of plastic were produced in the US in 2012, and 14 million tons of that was for containers and packaging, yet only 13.8% of that was recycled. The rest ended up in a landfill or worse was washed into our streams and rivers (EPA, 2012)

179,141 Plastic Bags Picked Up

In 2015, volunteers picked up 90,790 plastic bags and 88,351 bags of other types in coastal cleanups across the country. Plastic bags are consistently in the top 10 of trash types collected during cleanup days worldwide (Ocean Conservancy, 2016).

Deadly to Marine LIfe

Plastic bags, along with fishing gear, balloons, and six-pack plastic can often be harmful, and sometimes deadly, to seabirds, fish, and marine mammals. Once entangled in the plastic, the wildlife has no natural mechanism for becoming untangled (Ocean Conservancy, 2015).

infographic courtesy of Ocean Conservancy

5.25 Trillion Pieces of Plastic in Ocean

More than 269,000 tons of plastic particles can be found floating in the world's oceans, most of it small pieces between 1 mm and 4.75 mm in size (Eriksen et al., 2014).

Degraded plastics recovered from Dauphin Island by Caitlin Wessel

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).

Things You Can Do

Bring Your Own Bag

Use totes or fabric bags when you go grocery shopping. This will help reduce the total amount of plastic bags produced.

3 Piece Large Collapsible Shopping Bag Set (Amazon)

Put a Foldable Tote in Your Bag or Backpack

Keep a foldable shopping bag in your backpack or purse, so you always have a bag available.

4 Pack Nylon Foldable Bag with built-in Pouch (Amazon)

Reuse the Shopping Bags You Have

Reusing your plastic grocery bags will keep the bags out of landfills and our waters. Keep some in your car and use them the next time you shop. Keep in mind that you can reuse the small produce bags as well.

Plastic Bag Keeper (Amazon)

Use Fewer Plastic Bags

When you find yourself without any reusable bags, ask for fewer bags, pack the bags yourself, or for a few items, ask for no bags at all!

Make Yourself a Bag

If you quilt or love to sew, make yourself some fabric bags. They make perfect presents as well tutorial to sew a bag from fabric (

Photo by queenofdiy

Recycle When You Can

Recycle plastic grocery bags at your recycle center or at stores like Walmart supercenter, Neighborhood market, Target, Lowe’s. Find your closest Recycling Center

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Photo Credit: Kat Some Rights Reserved CC 2.0


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"The Majestic Plastic Bag - A Mockumentary" (4 min)