Political  Calculations
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How big of a problem do plastic shopping bags pose to the environment?

Since the elected supervisors of Los Angeles' City Council recently voted to ban plastic shopping bags at the city's retailers, largely in response to "clean-water" advocates, who argue that the bags "pollute the ocean and the city's waterways", we thought we'd get a sense of just how big that problem really is.

Our chart below presents the answer, which refers to data that those who support bans on plastic shopping bags frequently cite in advancing their agenda:

Plastic Shopping Bags: The Scope of the Environmental Problem...

The values shown in the chart above were originally reported in 2004. There are a number of points to note about the results for the first-ever worldwide cleanup of the coastal areas of the United States and 100 other countries:

  1. The use of plastic shopping bags really began taking off worldwide in the 1980s.
  2. By 2003, "environmental groups" estimate that anywhere from 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic shopping bags were being used annually.
  3. Despite never having been done before, meaning that about as many bags as could be found would be found during the Ocean Conservancy's one-day long campaign to clean up the world's coastal areas in September 2003, just 354,000 bags were collected. Most, but not all, were made of plastic.
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Political Calculations

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