The Real Cost of a Plastic Bag – by Rebecca Mayer

I recently received a friendly email from “Stop the Bag Police” in Los Angeles, California.  This message called me to join hundreds of Los Angeles residents who have spoken out against the Bag Police and their freedom-nabbing bag-banning intentions.

Who paid for the campaign?  The American Chemistry Council.  Again, they are playing on our national fear of hard times, citing facts about job losses and extra fees at the grocery counter.

So, to me, here’s the real question:  What is the true cost of a plastic bag?

According to, there are three costly phases in the life of a plastic bag. 

In Phase One, Production, we can measure cost in terms of petroleum and natural gas, both non-renewable resources that increase our nation’s dependence on outside suppliers.

Phase Two, Consumption, is more immediately measurable.  US retailers pay at least $4 billion per year on plastic bags.  The cost is passed on to shoppers with product markups.

Phase Three, Disposal and Litter, accounts for 8 billion pounds of plastic bags entering the US waste stream every year.  And I don’t have to tell you about the environmental impact this has on our landfills and oceans.

The Bag Police (aka American Chemistry Council) would have us believe that recycling is the most sustainable option for this 8 billion pounds of plastic per year. 

First of all, only 1 to 3% of 8 billion pounds of plastic is recycled.  You can do that math.  Read more reasons why recycling is not the best option.

The Bag Police says:

Instead of wasting time and telling us how to bag our groceries, Lawmakers should be working on our real problems, including a huge budget deficit, home foreclosures, and creating jobs.

Here’s another way to see it – Why don’t we take a proactive and responsible stance instead of adding environmental degradation to our list of national problems?

Banning bags may seem like unnecessary government intervention.  But the truth is, the real cost of a plastic bag is enormous.


About bagitmovie

Bag It is a documentary film following the world wide use of plastic bags, plastic's impact on the environment and human health.
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One Response to The Real Cost of a Plastic Bag – by Rebecca Mayer

  1. Just saw Bag It at Monterey’s Golden State theatre – thank you for the eye-opening and surprisingly funny and uplifting look at the world’s most consumed product, loved it. The Q&A was awesome too – I filmed it and will happily share the file with you guys if you’d like. 🙂 Keep up the great work!

    Katie Clapp,
    Editor –,

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