Target gave away 1.5 million reusable bags at its stores across the U.S. in honor of Earth Day. The U.S. retail giant started giving away the bags on April 21 at 10 a.m. Some of the bags (250,000) contained samples of sustainable products which included Method Dish Soap, Annie’s Bunny Grahams, Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent and Burt’s Bees Moisturizing Cream. In addition, Target gave away coupon books for sustainable products worth over $40 in savings.
Target stores were not the only ones giving away free reusable bags to celebrate Earth Day. Another national retail chain also gave them away. The Disney Store gave away reusable bags to customers who brought five plastic shopping bags to be recycled.
Two regional retailers also gave away reusable bags. Vons is a supermarket chain in California, and its store in the City of Solana Beach, located in southern California, gave away 1,000 reusable bags on Earth Day. The store sold certain reusable bags for a discount at $0.99. H-E-B, a supermarket chain in Texas and Mexico, gave away 200,000 reusable bags in all its Texas stores. The supermarket chain claims that the bag giveaway helps to keep over one million plastic bags from the environment.
The high costs of plastic shopping bags
Plastic bag production requires fossil fuels, petroleum and natural gas, plus toxic chemicals. The cost of plastic bags is estimated to be $4 billion for U.S. retailers, according to downwithbasics.com. Although the plastic bags retailers give away are recycled, only a small percentage also end up recycled. In 2010, not quite 12 percent of the category of plastics that includes bags, sacks and wraps was recycled, according to the EPA. It takes up to 1,000 years for plastic bags to break down in a landfill.
Plastic bags can have harmful effects on the oceans. Toxic chemicals like bisphenol A leach into the world’s oceans. That’s a big problem considering that something called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) exists. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) first identified the GPGP in 1988, and it’s estimated by some to be twice the size of Texas. Located in the North Pacific Ocean, marine life is threatened by the plastic swirling around in it by either getting entangled in the plastic and drowning, or eating bits of plastic.
Scientists recently reported that there is a similar plastic garbage patch in the Great Lakes, the largest bodies of fresh water lakes on the planet. The findings were reported at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. In the samples collected in Lake Erie by a research team, 85 percent of the microparticles were smaller than two-tenths of an inch. Researchers also found between 1,500 and 1.7 million of those particles per square mile, 24 percent higher than in samples the research team collected in the Southern Atlantic Ocean.
Photo: Flickr, How can I recycle this