Plastic bags are made from oil: it takes about 430,000 gallons of oil to produce 100 million plastic bags, and the U.S. goes through 380 billion of them a year.

A statistics class at Indiana U did the math: more than 1.6 billion gallons of oil are used each year for plastic bags alone. The more we use plastic bags, the more we waste oil.

Compounding the problem is the fact that, not only do we make tons of plastic bags (and use lots of oil in the process) we only recycle 1 percent. One lousy percent. It’s pitiful.

But the plastic problem gets worse. Under perfect conditions a bag takes a thousand years to biodegrade, and in a landfill, plastic bags decompose even slower. If buried, they block the natural flow of oxygen and water through the soil. If burned, they release dangerous toxins and carcinogens into the air. The damage is even more severe when the bags end up in the ocean, where thousands of sea turtles and other marine life die each year after mistaking plastic bags for food. Read the rest of this entry »