In 2018, Science Advances launched the first ever global study of plastics produced, documenting what happens to plastic items after use. They found that only 9% of all plastics are ever actually recycled. That means 91% winds up in landfills, as litter or marine pollution and in our area, plastics are incinerated. Even if plastic is collected in a recycling container, it doesn't mean it ends up recycled. Recyclable plastic is a commodity. If a buyer can't be found, or if a batch becomes contaminated, these large loads of collected and transported plastics don't end up recycled and can end up in landfills or incinerators instead.
Plastic can take hundreds of years to degrade. This is causing a huge accumulation problem, especially in marine environments. Plastic never goes away. Instead it degrades into small particles known as microplastics. This releases toxins into soil and water, and the small pieces can also adsorb and concentrate other pollutants, such as PCBs, dioxins and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
The feedstock for plastic bags comes from fossil fuels, ethane separated from natural gas or petroleum refinement. Fossil fuels are used to produce initial material and chemicals, manufacture bags, deliver for use and later to haul away as waste. This continuous manufacture and disposal of single-use bags is a waste of energy and contributes to the growing climate change crisis. A switch to reusable bags helps the environment and our children's future.