Pouring oil on the ground

plastic bag

4% of the world’s oil production goes into making plastic grocery bags. That’s four out of every 100 barrels of oil pumped out of the ground!

Too many of them end up in landfills, where it takes 1000 years for them to decompose. Ditto for all the other petroleum-based plastics that get used once (or were used as packaging and thus never really used) then discarded. A hideously wasteful, and uncomprehending system indeed.

  • Joe Hartley

    Anybody got any idea of the economics of plastic v. paper bags? Can you store more plastic bags on site so that the storage costs to the grocers become a factor favoring plastic, even when double-bagging everthing? One would think with oil having increased as much as it has that factors other than paper v. plastic cost of supply are involved.

  • I think the post mentioned that plastic bags are considerably cheaper than paper (but not biodegradable, of course)

  • Folks need to realize that the gas we burn in our suburban lifestyles is a toxic byproduct of the manufacture of the myriad petrocarbon products we daily take for granted – from the dashboards of our cars to the tubes that carry our waste. We are paying the oil companies for the privaledge of disposing of their toxic waste, which would otherwise be burned off into the astmosphere.

  • feerie

    I work in a grocery store, so I know this :

    Plastic bags are cheaper by a ratio of 8:1 to paper bags.

    Thats why they’re the default. At minimum everyone should be forced, somehow, to recycle them. Or just stop making them, use reusable bags.

    How wasteful a system we live in when 4% of production of a crucial resource is used on..plastic bags.

  • Actually, that 4% figure isn’t exactly true. I was so shocked at the statistic that I started following links back to try to find the original source. It’s this article here, and says that plastic accounts for 4% of all petroleum production, which seems to mean all plastic products, not just plastic bags.

  • Ross Mirkarimi , the highest elected Green Party official in San Francisco, has been leading this effort for years. It is expected to pass:

    Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi Announces Reusable Canvas Bag Giveaway and
    Press Conference on Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance:

    SAN FRANCISCO (March 26, 2007)— Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and the San
    Francisco Department of the Environment will give away free reusable
    canvas shopping bags at a press conference on Tuesday March 27, 2007 at
    12 Noon on the front steps of City Hall. Supervisor Mirkarimi has
    introduced an ordinance to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags in the
    City’s pharmacies and grocery stores and require them to provide
    compostable paper or plastic bags. Passage of this legislation will make
    San Francisco the first City in the United States to prohibit large
    grocery stores and pharmacies from giving out plastic bags.

    Around the world, countries and municipalities have identified plastic
    bag over usage as a menace that is littering the streets, consuming
    fossil fuels, harming wildlife, and contributing to global warming.
    Similar bans have been implemented in South Africa, Taiwan, Bangladesh,
    and Paris. “You’re talking about 12 million barrels of oil that are used
    nationally to produce 30 million plastic bags in the United States,”
    Supervisor Mirkarimi said. “It’s up to local governments to not wait for
    the federal government to get its act together.”

    San Francisco’s plastic bag reduction ordinance will be voted on by the
    full Board of Supervisors following the press conference in room 250 of
    City Hall at 2PM. Board President Aaron Peskin, and Supervisor
    McGoldrick, Daly, Ammiano, Sandoval, Maxwell, and Alioto-Pier have
    co-sponsored the ordinance.
    | WHAT: Canvas Bag Giveaway & Press Conf. On Plastic Bag Reduction Plan
    | WHEN: Tuesday March 27, 2007, 12 Noon |
    | WHERE: Polk St. Steps, City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl. SF, CA
    take Muni to Civic Center Station & cross UN Plaza to City Hall


    Artist Judith Selby Lang will be organizing a plastic bag sewing circle
    in front of City Hall at noon tomorrow. In conjunction with the 2007
    Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, April 14-24 Ms Lang will be
    creating a replica of the Ryoan-ji Garden in Kyoto made entirely out of
    recycled plastic bags. Visit her blog at:

    For more information please call 415-554-7630.

    Office of Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi
    1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 282
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    (415) 554-7630 (phone)
    (415) 554-7634 (fax)
    ross.mirkarimi at

  • News Advisory

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007
    Contact: Susan King, spokesperson, 415.823-5524 funking at
    Dr. Bob Vizzard, spokesperson, 916.206 8953, thevizz at
    Sara Amir, spokesperson, 310.270-7106 saraamir at
    Cres Vellucci, press secretary, 916.996-9170 civillib at

    San Francisco becomes the first city in nation
    to ban plastic bags; Green Party supervisor
    leads fights to save planet, marine life

    SAN FRANCISCO (March 27, 2007) – San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi –
    one of 50 elected Green Party members in the state – pushed through an
    ordinance late Tuesday that would make San Francisco the first city in the
    nation to ban the use of all but the most environmentally-sound shopping bags.

    The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 Tuesday to require the
    city’s grocery stores and chain pharmacies to use only recyclable paper or
    compostable bags, despite stiff resistance from the California Grocers
    Association and the plastic industry.

    “I have been astounded by the worldwide attention the issue has received.
    Hopefully, other cities and states will follow suit,” said Mirkarimi,
    adding that he believes the decision is part of a “trend of making sure
    that a forward-thinking economy is one that understands its relationship
    with our environment.”

    The measure had been delayed after the grocery industry went to the
    Legislature to intervene. Now, the law goes into effect for 54 grocery
    stores within six months, and a year for large pharmacies with at least
    five locations. It benefits consumers in many ways, says Mirkarimi.

    The compostable “plastic” bags are stronger, they can be dumped directly
    into a compost pile because they are made from starches like corn and
    potatoes and they won’t pollute the environment, kill marine life or gum up
    recycling machines. The cost for compostable bags is about the same as
    paper bags.

    Plastic bags are a worldwide environmental disaster – and many countries
    have already made the leap to rid themselves of the bags, of which as many
    as one trillion are used worldwide every year, according to experts. Sea
    life, from whales to turtles to sea birds, ingest the bags.

    The plastic bags are pervasive. In South Africa, there are two Texas-size
    “islands” of plastic bags floating at sea, and Bangladesh banned plastic
    when it was discovered millions of the bags blocked drains and led to
    massive flooding. In Ireland, a “bag fee” led to a 90 percent reduction in
    the use of plastic in three years.

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