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New report uncovers remarkable impact of controversial plastic bag bans: 'People realize quickly it's easy to live without plastic bags'

The report focused on bans in New Jersey, Vermont, Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon, and California.

The report focused on bans in New Jersey, Vermont, Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon, and California.

Photo Credit: iStock

City, state, and national governments all over the world have been banning single-use plastic bags in an attempt to curb pollution. Now, a new report has revealed just how effective these bans are — highly effective, as it turns out.

The report, released by the Environment America Research & Policy Center, was copublished by three nonprofit groups: Environment America, U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, and Frontier Group.

The report focused on plastic bag bans in New Jersey; Vermont; Philadelphia; Portland, Oregon; and Santa Barbara, California. It found that the bag bans can eliminate nearly 300 single-use plastic bags per person annually. New Jersey's ban, enacted in 2022, was found to be the most effective, eliminating 5.5 billion plastic bags per year.

While some have pointed to criticisms suggesting that plastic bag bans just lead more people to purchase plastic bags to line their small trash cans, the bans nonetheless cut a huge number of total bags that would never get that sort of second use.

It stands to reason that many households realize they do not need a new plastic bag lining every trash receptacle each week, too. Further, many who do purchase trash bags can buy environmentally friendly options that are made of recycled plastic or compostable, plant-based materials like the ones from Hold On.  

In total, the report found that those five plastic bag bans had cut single-use bag consumption by a whopping 6 billion bags per year — and those bans are just a fraction of all the plastic bag bans globally.

"The bottom line is that plastic bag bans work," said Faye Park, president of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, in a statement. "People realize quickly it's easy to live without plastic bags and get used to bringing a bag from home or skipping a bag when they can."

Single-use plastic is made primarily out of oil, the extraction and use of which both contribute heavily to the overheating of our planet.

Once used, the vast majority of single-use plastic ends up in landfills or as pollution, which is especially an issue in our oceans, where the total weight of plastic is expected to outweigh the total weight of fish by 2050. It is estimated that 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs, and that half of marine turtles have consumed plastic.

So, despite the protests of business interests that stand to profit from this environmental destruction by continuing to produce and sell single-use plastics, these bans are well worth it, and the numbers show that they are working.

Other places that have banned single-use plastics recently that were not specifically featured in the report include New Zealand; the state of California; and Alberta, Canada.

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