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Plastic bag alternatives

Updated on May 22, 2013

Plastic bags bad, Cloth bags and baskets good

Facts, figures, recycling ideas, alternative bags, alternative uses, valuable resources and links

Each year the world uses 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags. The US accounts for about 380 billions. As shocking as this is, it's even more shocking to know that only a tiny fraction of them are recycled. Most are thrown away and end up damaging the environment and killing an estimated 1 million birds, whales, seals, sea turtles and other sea creatures. 1 Million animals die. Every. Single. Year. And all due to plastics of one kind or another.

Here you'll find facts about plastic bags. More importantly, you'll find alternatives to plastic bags: how to reuse plastic bags and where you can get alternative bags and baskets. Some support specific charities and other are message boards for changing the world.

You can make a huge difference in the world by taking this one small action -- stop using plastic bags.

Photo: iStockPhoto

Plastic bags: Where do the 500 billion to 1 Trillion bags end up?

As shocking as the fact that the world uses so many plastic bags each year, it's even more shocking to know that only a tiny fraction of them are recycled. The rest are thrown away.

Ah, but here's the rub. Thrown away means putting them in the garbage can where they are taken to a dump. The problem is that a plastic bag can last for 1,000 years!

The worse news is that many of these plastic bags end up on the streets and out in the environment -- outside of the dump. So there plastic bags that are used usually for a few minutes or hours -- are literally killing the environment and animals.

When is the last time you walked down the street and did NOT see a plastic bag tumbling in the wind? Or wrapped around a tree or bush? Or, adorning a fence?

Save our planet from plastic bags

Save our planet from plastic bags
Save our planet from plastic bags

Plastic bags cost $250/household in retail costs and taxes.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch aka Eastern Garbage Patch

In the North Pacific Ocean is a mass of plastic debris that measures the size of the state of Texas.

The debris included bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, plastic bags, and fragments of plastic. North Pacific Gyre What is an oceanic gyre? According to Wikipedia...

"A gyre is any manner of swirling vortex. It is often used to describe large-scale wind or ocean currents. Gyres are caused by the Coriolis effect; planetary vorticity along with horizontal and vertical friction which determine the circulation patterns from the wind curl (torque)."

This photo shows the locations of

the 5 major ocean gyres.

Plastic Bag are a danger to wildlife

Plastic Bag are a danger to wildlife
Plastic Bag are a danger to wildlife

In the oceans, plastics become a "toxic sponge"

soaking up polutants. Fish who swallow these toxins can ultimately pass them onto humans further up the food chain.

According to Environment California

Green sea turtle
Green sea turtle

The Turtle That Pooped Plastic for 1 Month!

If you still don't believe that humans are destroying the oceans and their inhabitants by disposing of plastic bags, then this story surely should.

It seems that a green turtle after being rescued in 2009 by marine biologists in Melbourne Beach, Florida, had to have a large piece of plastic removed from it's gastrointestinal tract. As if that wasn't enough, the turtle then defecated 74 foreign objects over the next month. For the full story, go to Turtle found ...

A report was issued by Sea's Marine Turtle Newsletter (pdf) which reports among other horrific things that about half of the sea turtules they surveyed had ingested plastic.

The report also states that today over 80% of all waste that ends up on land, shorelines, and in the ocean is plastic as opposed to only 1% in the 1960s.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, coauthor of the report stated, "Sea turtles have spent the past 100 million years roaming seas free of plastic pollution, and are now sadly the poster animal for impacts of our throw-away society on endangered species."

Green turtles are listed as an endangered species. There is a subpopulation in the Mediterranean which is listed as critically endangered.

We need to stop using plastic bags. This is just one species that will be extinct because of man's inability or desire to curb our appetite for all things easy and disposible.

Retail stores spend approx. $4 billion to provide plastic bags for customers.

Video: The effects of plastics bags

Plastic bags are bad -- Need more convincing? Then check this out

Paper or Plastic is no longer the question. The real question is:

How can I reduce, reuse, recycle, replace plastic bags?

* What are the alternatives to these use-once bags?

* How do I recycle or reuse the existing bags safely with the least impact to the environment and animals?

* What type of bags can be used that don't impact the environment and animals?


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose, Replace

Plastic bag recycling -- Where and How to recycle plastic bags

Recycled plastic bags are used in composite lumber, new bags, pallets, containers, crates and pipes.

To recycle, simply take your dry, clean plastic bags to a recycling center which are located at retail stores and government municipal recycling centers.

Click her to find a drop-off location by state: Recycling centers by State look-up.

500 Uses For Plastic Bags - Plastic Bags Uses Book

The Bag Book: Over 500 Great Uses and Reuses for Paper, Plastic and Other Bags to Organize and Enhance Your Life (Lansky, Vicki)
The Bag Book: Over 500 Great Uses and Reuses for Paper, Plastic and Other Bags to Organize and Enhance Your Life (Lansky, Vicki)

500 ways to use plastic bags in your life. This book is great because you're sure to find many ways you never even thought of to use plastic bags.


A paper bag requires 69 percent more resources and energy to produce than cloth.

Make your own grocery bags: Free Patterns - Dozens of free patterns


    They share 33 Reusable Grocery Bags -- Free Tutorials and Patterns. The patterns are split into 3 sections: Sew, Knit and Crochet. You'll find among the patterns:

    A t-Shirt Grocery Bag, Pillowcase Tote,Reusable Grocery Bag, A Bird Seed Bag Grocery Tote, Canvas Bag, Hand knit Market Bag, Susitna String Shopping Bag, Knit Shopping Bags in Two Sizes, Free Reusable Cocheted Grocery Bag Pattern. And many, many more -- well 33 in all.

  • String It Along is another blog where you can get bag ideas and patterns.

    Free patterns for simple crochet, Turkish Stitch String, mesh bags, market bags and more.

  • Turkish Stitch String Bag

    She says about this bag, "This bag can be knitted in any string or thread--preferably of a non-stretching fiber like cotton--from crochet cotton to sport weight, maybe thicker, using any very large needle size. This pattern is about as "mindless" as knitting gets, and goes very fast. "

This Lens Supports Wildlife S.O.S. To Help Save The Dancing Bears Of India

This lens donates to Wildlife S.O.S. for their "India Bear Rescue" Project.

You can help save the bears by making your TAX EXEMPT donation to Save the bears

Get this adorable image of a Sloth Bear on on a reusable tote bag. (You can also get t-shirts, hats and other apparel.) To see all products with this design, click More Products

Fun bags on Amazon

Market Basket African Hand Woven Colorful Grass w Handles Shopping Tote
Market Basket African Hand Woven Colorful Grass w Handles Shopping Tote

Uncertain Times in Kenya -

The people of Kenya had their lives and country turned upside down following post-election violence earlier this year. The unrest left a devastating wake, including hundreds of thousands of displaced people still living in camps, many who lost loved ones, and considerable damage to homes and businesses. The economic impact has been severe and far-reaching, leaving people throughout Kenya without ways to make a living while costs of basic needs rise.

Getting people back to work and earning income is a vital part of the reconstruction process. Artisans who are dependent on sales to tourists have been particularly hurt by loss of work since this major facet of Kenya's economy has come to an abrupt halt. The impact on the Bombolulu project with 190 mostly disabled employees and casual workers is devastating since there are hardly any tourists to buy the crafts made by them...In January, sales dropped by 90% compared to the previous year, Director, Hubert Seifert advised.

Although there has been a temporary calm in the violence, the future is uncertain.

When you purchase our African Collectibles, you are helping in the recovery efforts by providing artisans with work at this critical time. This also allows our suppliers to provide additional funds to aid in the rebuilding efforts.

Mini Tote Basket - Silver Mesh by Design Ideas
Mini Tote Basket - Silver Mesh by Design Ideas

This mesh shopping basket makes a great desk accessory! Use it to hold mail, pens and pencils and other office supplies in style. The Mini Basket also makes a great catch-all in your kitchen or entry way. Just toss your keys or the mail into it when you walk in the door. This Mesh Shopping Basket is so versatile, you can even use it on the counter top or table as a fruit basket. The possibilities are endless! This decorative basket is made of sturdy silver mesh wire, and features two vinyl coa


This lens was created for the SquidActivists October Challenge for Animals.

Want to link to this lens? Here's how.


Here's the HTML code to copy and paste:
Plastic Bag Altermatives


This work is covered by copyright and can not be reprinted

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Copyright 2008-2012 Frankie Kangas All rights reserved.

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    • Franksterk profile imageAUTHOR

      Frankie Kangas 

      7 years ago from California

      @sudokunut: Paying for returned bags like bottles is a great idea. Our little town -- Fort Bragg, CA -- will be plastic bag free (stores can't give 1-use plastic bags out) in a couple of months. Some stores are already there. If you don't bring your own bags, you are charged 10 cents for a paper bag. I love this little town!

    • sudokunut profile image

      Mark Falco 

      7 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      England has been pushing for a 10p charge for each plastic bag to reduce the amount of plastic bags they use. I know a lot of countries already do this but England has been lagging behind on this one. That's almost guaranteed to reduce the amount people use as it seems people are more likely to worry about their pockets than the environment sadly. I think if they did that perhaps combined with a recycling program which pays you to turn them back in we'd see a huge reduction in the amount of these finding their way into the environment.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I think that the Idea for those bags things are a good idea. (p.s) put a tree-frog on one of them :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great information here. Its important that people learn these stats, and recognize how much waste we put in the landfills. Well done!

    • jordanmilesbask profile image


      7 years ago

      another wonderful lens..

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You hit the nail on the head here, its about alternatives and you did it with style!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love the idea of designing your own tote on CafePress or Zazzle! Stylish, personalized and environmentally friendly!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens. Thanks.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for sharing this great lens! That is very interesting Smile I love reading and I am always searching for informative information like this!

      black leather briefcase

    • Jmel37 profile image


      9 years ago

      Great informational lens. I myself have a lens on the problems these plastic bags cause and I was shocked when reading about the Pacific Gyre. I create recycled bags from plastic shopping bags....

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Gee 

      9 years ago

      Wonderful and informative lens. Yesterday when at the farmer's market, I took my "Whole Foods" green bag. I used it instead of accepting plastic bags from vendors. Felt good.

      Blessed by this Squid Angel Today!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      It is a big problem in India. Climate is getting affected by this. What measures can we take to save Glaciers from Pilgrimage reach to it and leave their Plastic waste there!!

    • norma-holt profile image


      9 years ago

      Great lens and wonderful information and pics. Blessed and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust and on Plastic is Death. We certainly think alike


    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 

      9 years ago from Concord VA

      Great lens! I hate plastic bags!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great lens. Maybe people will become aware of the danger the plastic bags bring.


    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 

      9 years ago

      Excellent lens, thank you for sharing this! Lensrolled to Zipsack Tote Bags.

    • teamlane profile image


      10 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel today!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      thanks for these great ideas on how to use recycled plastics, in a creative way, great lens.

    • JohannDog profile image

      Johann The Dog 

      10 years ago from Northeast Georgia

      Great info!!! We wouldn't go anywhere without our reusable totes that I won for us at an agility trial! Thanks for spreading the green stuff :)

    • RolandTumble profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens. 5* & laensrolled to my eco-lens.

    • monarch13 profile image


      10 years ago

      Congratulations, you were nominated for The Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Group Excellence Award!

      Good Luck and Good Health!

      Monarch 13 (Michelle)

    • dahlia369 profile image


      10 years ago

      Thank you for joining my Squidoo group!

      "Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful."

      -- Buddha

    • monarch13 profile image


      10 years ago

      Very Creative and Inspiring. 5 stars from The Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Headquarters!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Wow -- some compelling pics to NOT use plastic bags! And, I am amazed at the beauty of plastic bag jewelry -- who would have thunk? Great job my dear on this lens!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      You have a great topic here! The plastic bag problem is huge and this Squidoo lens can bring more awareness to the problem! Rated and blessed!


    • AlisonMeacham profile image


      10 years ago

      These are such shocking facts - I just hope that more people become aware of them.We can do something to make a difference very easily. I never use plastic bags any more and it really isn't that much of an effort to stop. Blessings to you!

    • religions7 profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens. I hear there are bulks of plastic floating about the ocean - just waiting to be swallowed by fish and other life there.

    • giacombs-ramirez profile image

      gia combs-ramirez 

      10 years ago from Montana

      What shocking facts....Clean up on Aisle Ocean!

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      Ruth Coffee 

      10 years ago from Zionsville, Indiana

      Excellent work! I despised these bags even before I realized how damaging they can be. Here in farm land where everything is bare in the winter they litter the landscape like crazy.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      We'd love to have your plastic bag alternatives lens featured in the Reusable Bags group! Great work!

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 

      10 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Superb lens. I wish I could rate it higher than a 5. Welcome to Living the Green Organic Lifestyle!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Another Five Star lens - Welcome to the Activists Sound Off Group

      I have lensrolled this to my Increase your Green Consciousness lens.

    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 

      10 years ago from Croatia

      Great job you did with this lens! :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Essential lens! Lensrolled to 3 of mine & featured on one!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great job on this lens Frankie

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L B 

      10 years ago from Covington, LA

      Welcome to the Naturally Native Squids group. Don't forget to add your lens links to the appropriate plexos and vote for them.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great info. Never heard of a gyre. And I love the photos especially the globe in the plastic bag and the polar bear. 5* and made it a favorite.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Whoa. I never heard of an ocean gyre. Fascinating yet terrifying at the same time. Thanks for getting me up to speed on the problem of plastic bags. 5 stars and a favorite.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Awesome lens! 5*s and a blessing.

    • chefkeem profile image

      Achim Thiemermann 

      10 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Great lens on an important subject, Frankie! 5*s and a hearty SquidAngel Blessing for your commitment to a better world!


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