Plastic Bags

Myths: Fact or Fiction

Degrade in Landfill Myth

The Single Use Myth


Paper vs. Plastic Bags

Paper vs. Plastic Studies

Reusables Greener?

Types of Bags

Litter: The Facts
Public Health

Canada Update

Bags Around the World

The Oil Myth

Made in Canada
Ireland's Bag Tax

Are Shopping Bags Really Just Single-Use?

Fiction: Conventional plastic shopping bags provided by grocery and convenience stores are "single-use", used only once as a carry-out bag.

Fact: No. Conventional plastic bags are multi-purpose and multi-use bags that are reused by a majority of consumers. They are not a convenience, but a necessity. They meet all sorts of daily requirements, and are a necessity for managing household and pet waste. In Toronto, they are used as the primary vehicle to recycle organic waste in the green bin.

The Facts

  • “Single-use” bags are reused many times. Canadians are highly committed to responsible use in the form of reuse and recycling. Plastic bags reuse rates ranges from 40% to 60%1 in Canada.
    • For example, according to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, 59.1% of the plastic bags have an alternate use.1

  • The conventional plastic shopping bag really is a multi-purpose/multi-use bag, just with a shorter life. Beyond its role as a tote to transport groceries in a hygenic environment, the bag serves an important secondary role in the waste management process for household waste, and in some municipalities, to recycle organic waste.
  • In addition Canada has a highly effective, national recycling system for plastic shopping bags so recycling rates are high and growing. Bags in Canada are recycled and repurposed through various blue box and take-back to retail programs, coast to coast (B.C. -32%, Alberta -  32%, Ontario -35.7%, PEI – 57%, Nova Scotia – 50%)2.
  • In the recycling process, plastic bags are remanufactured into new bags, plastic lumber, water pipes, outdoor furniture, and office supplies.
  • The term “single-use” is more a generic descriptor to distinguish this shorter life bag from reusables, which are longer-life bags, but as a term its meaning is not wholly accurate.

More Detail

Consumer Research—The Majority of Canadians Reuse Their Conventional Plastic Bags

Ontario Ministry of the Environment Data Also Proves High Alternate Use

City of Toronto Data Reinforces Findings of High Reuse of Plastic Shopping Bags

Toronto plastic bag recycling

Plastic Wood in a Toronto Boardwalkproducts made from recycled plastic bagsproducts made from recycled plastic bags

1 Decima Televox National Telephone Omnibus, Consumer Opinions on Plastic Bag Uses, April 25th, 2007   

2  Recycler Data, Stewardship Ontario, Ontario Ministry of the Environment