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Plastic Bag Clean Up Costs

Our cities are literally throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars every year on plastic bag clean up costs.

It’s estimated that Americans use over 380 billion plastic bags and wraps a year. Nationwide, litter clean up efforts amount to as much as $11 billion per year.  Even though not all of that is from disposable bags, it costs 30 cents to clean up each piece of litter out of our cities, streets, and roadsides. From landfill, to litter removal, to trash collection, cities are paying the price for plastic bag clean up in a variety of ways.

Even if you think you have thrown away a bag responsibly, the bag can blow out of a trash truck or land fill and end up as inadvertent litter.

In 2004 The City of San Francisco estimated the cost of clean up and landfill at 17 cents per bag. Here is how they calculated the cost per bag for the 50 million bags used in that city per year.

Contamination of recycling stream: $1.09 million/year = 2.2 cents per bag.
Collecting and disposing of bags: $3.6 million/year = 7.2 cents per bag.
Removing bags from streets: $2.6 million/year = 5.2 cents per bag.
Processing in landfills: $1.2 million/year = 2.4 cents per bag.
Total cost per bag in SF alone: $8.49 million/year = 17 cents per bag

These costs are similar across the US.

A report by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArther Foundation as found that currently, the equivalent of one dump truck of plastic litter is  entering our oceans every day.  That is expected to increase to three dump trucks per day.  The report estimates there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.  The cost to clean that up, not to mention the cost of the environmental damage, is unknown but could run into the billions.

Help reduce waste by reusing bags today!