Plastic Bag Facts

Help us change these statistics.

Consumption Facts

  • The global production of plastic is currently just under 300 million tonnes. Nearly 50% of this we use just once and then throw it away.
  • An estimated 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide each year; that is more than 1 million a minute.
  • In the UK an estimated 17.5 billion plastic bags are given away by supermarkets each year.
  • Each adult receives on average 290 plastic bags a year.
  • The average lifespan of a plastic bag is only 12 minutes.
  • 88% of people use ‘free’ plastic bags given to them in supermarkets, and on average they take 3 or 4 shopping bags per trip.
  • 71% of shoppers claim to have bought a reusable bag but only 12% use them regularly.
  • Most families throw away about 40 kg of plastic a year.
  • In the last 10 years we have consumed as much plastic as we did during the whole of the last century.

Environmental facts

  • Only one in every 200 bags is recycled.
  • Plastic bags can take up to 1000 years to break down in a landfill.
  • Plastic bags do not bio-degrade, they photo-degrade, i.e. they break into smaller and smaller pieces releasing toxic substances into the soil and our oceans.
  • Plastic bags are carried by the wind into forests, ponds, rivers, lakes and seas.
  • Millions of seabirds and and marine animals die every year by becoming entangled or ingesting plastic.
  • Only 10% of the total waste we generate is plastic, however plastic waste accounts for 80% of marine debris.
  • Around 50% of the litter found on beaches is plastic.

Manufacturing facts

  • Plastic manufacturing uses 8% of the worlds annual oil production as a raw material and during the manufacturing process.
  • There are 5 main groups of plastic materials. They all have a ‘life’ of hundreds of years.
  • The chemicals used in plastic are known to cause cancer as well as other major health problems.
  • Scientists have proved that there is a link between plastic products entering the food chain and the release of chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system of humans.
  • Plastics production involves the use of potentially harmful chemicals which are added as stabilizers or colorants; many of which have not undergone environmental risk assessment.