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Recycle, Reuse, and Reap
the Rewards of Reusable Tote Bags

act-reusable-grocery-bagWith the increased focus on protecting our environment, reusable tote bags have replaced t-shirts as the most popular promotional give-away. Reusable bags come in all sorts of stylish shapes and prints, making them a fun and functional collectible item. Not only do they make shopping trips a little more fun, they make the user feel like a responsible citizen.

Consider these frightening facts about paper and plastic shopping bags and you will see why:

The United States cuts down 14 million trees per year simply to supply the demand for paper shopping bags. Chemically processed at high temperatures, paper bag production releases toxins into the atmosphere at the same rate as plastic production, yet paper bags weigh nearly ten times more than their plastic counterparts, requiring more fuel to ship them to stores. And, despite being highly recyclable, only 20% of paper bags actually get recycled.

When it comes to plastic bags, the statistics are even more dire:

  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, close to 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States each year, costing retailers around $4 billion annually.
  • The average person uses 350-500 plastic bags per year. And we are not alone. It is estimated that 500 billion to 1 trillion non-degradable plastic bags are used worldwide each year.
  • It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce approximately 100 billion new plastic bags.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that only 1% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide. The cost to recycle plastic bags so outweighs their value that most recycling facilities will not take them.
  • The other 99% of plastic bags are sent to landfills where it can take anywhere from 15 to 1000 years for a plastic bag to decompose. Yet because they are so lightweight, plastic bags are the debris most likely to fly away, settling instead in trees, storm drains, beaches, and the ocean.
  • Plastic is the largest source of ocean litter, with plastic bags making up over 10% of washed-up debris polluting the US coastline. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, each year an estimated one million sea birds and 100,000 whales, seals, turtles and other marine animals die of starvation after ingesting discarded plastic bags which block their digestive tracks.

That’s why, in some places, government is stepping in. In the recent years, more than a dozen countries have banned or put a tax on disposable bags. In 2002, Ireland was the first European country to impose a tax on plastic bags. At that time, it is estimated that nearly 1.2 billion free plastic bags were being distributed by retailers per year. Since the tax, Ireland has decreased plastic shopping bag consumption by 90%, reducing overall plastic bag usage by 1.08 billion.

In 2007, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban conventional plastic grocery bags. In 2010, Los Angeles County followed suit: shoppers can either bring their own reusable bags or pay 25 cents for a paper or biodegradable bag. Nationwide, some retailers haven taken initiative, offering discounts as an incentive to customers who bring their own! CVS Pharmacy and Target began offering incentives to their customers to switch to using reusable shopping bags. CVS gives loyalty card shoppers a $1 reward for every four times they leave the store without taking a plastic bag. Target’s program offers shoppers a 5-cent discount for every reusable bag. Whole Foods gives cusomters a 10-cent discount for each reusable bag.  IKEA stores charge 5 cents per plastic bag. Proceeds go to American Forests, the nation’s oldest non-profit citizen’s conservation organization. Even Wal-Mart has introduced a pilot program in Northern California that require shoppers to either bring their own bags or pay 15 cents for a reusable bag at checkout, or $.50 for a plus-size bag.

Not only are reusable tote bags a necessary tool for all future shoppers, they are also a great advertising vehicle. In addition to creating brand awareness for your company or organization, they relay a message that you are part of a growing global ecological movement. After all, reusable bags save trees, water, gas and oil, while helping to reduce air and ocean pollution.

In fact, the average reusable bag has the lifespan of over seven hundred disposable plastic bags. Over a lifetime, just one person using reusable tote bags saves over 22,000 plastic bags! If your company or organization hasn’t created a custom-branded tote bag, it’s time to call the Queen of Promotional Products now!

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