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.
- Carry bags are generically categorized as reusable and single-use, but evidence based on actual usage patterns shows that plastic shopping bags are in fact multi-purpose/multi-use bags with a shorter life than reusables.
- Single use bags have a life beyond their primary role as a carry bag. They have extremely high reuse rates ranging from 40-60%. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment reports a 59.1% alternate reuse rate, based on data collected to track the 50% Bag Reduction Program.
- They are reused for a wide range of activities – for storage, shopping, lunch bags, pet waste and organics collection, to name the most popular uses. Their primary reuse is as kitchen catchers for household garbage.
- Recycling rates for conventional plastic shopping bags are healthy and expanding. There are a range of recycling programs in Canada from blue box/bin, bag-to-bag programs and take-back-to- retail. As well, there is a national network of recyclers who help to ensure that the bags enjoy a second life.
Consumer Research—The Majority of Canadians Reuse Their Conventional Plastic Bags
- Decima Research Studies of bag attitudes and usage patterns of Canadians shows that Canadians have a strong commitment to responsible use.
- In a 2007 Decima Research Study, 77% of Canadians and 79% of Ontarians stated that they reuse their plastic bags two or more times.
- In this 2007 study, pet owners demonstrated an even stronger commitment to reuse; 85% of pet owners, nationally, and 86% in Ontario responded “yes” to: “Do you reuse your plastic shopping bags as garbage bags to pick up after your pets?”.
- And when asked, “If traditional plastic shopping bags handed out at retail stores were no longer available, would you purchase kitchen catchers and other small plastic bags off the shelf for your household garbage and to pick up after your pets?”, 78% nationally responded “yes” and 76% in Ontario, responded “yes”.
Ontario Ministry of the Environment Data Also Proves High Alternate Use
- Analysis of data used to track the success of the Province’s 50% Bag Reduction Program shows that 59.1% of conventional plastic shopping bags in circulation have an alternate or secondary use beyond a tote for groceries.
- The same analysis shows an Ontario province-wide recycling rate of 35.7%, based on municipalities that accept plastic bags in their blue bin programs.
City of Toronto Data Reinforces Findings of High Reuse of Plastic Shopping Bags
- At the June 6, 2012 City of Toronto Council Meeting banning plastic shopping bags, waste management staff testified that 44% of the plastic grocery bags are reused for the city’s green bin organics program and 15% are recycled in the city’s blue bin at a facility, built to take Toronto’s plastic bags and film in Elmira, Ontario.
- The remainder of the bags (slightly less than 40%) are used for household garbage.
- Plastic retail bag litter is only 0.8% of total litter, based on the 2012 City of Toronto Litter Audit.
- Recognizing the value of the plastic shopping bag to reduce the “yuk” factor of organics recycling, the City of Toronto's engineered its entire green bin organics collection program on the plastic shopping bag and its reuse as a recycing medium.
- EFS in Elmira recycles Toronto's empty, clean bags into new bags, outdoor furniture, office supplies, plastic lumber and water pipes.
- Repurposed bags: The City of Toronto 1.5 kilometre-long Western Beaches Boardwalk is made of 32 million recycled plastic bags.
2 Recycler Data, Stewardship Ontario, Ontario Ministry of the Environment