It seems like more and more supermarkets have discontinued plastic bags, switched to paper-only shopping bags, and have set up discount incentives for customers to bring their own reusable bag. That's because we're finally discovering the inconvenient truth about plastic bags: They're rarely recycled. They're made from petroleum oil. And they're an enormous harm to our environment.

If you've made the switch to reusable grocery bags, then applaud yourself for being environmentally aware. But if you're still using plastic bags, read the facts below and consider making the switch. Our world deserves to be treated better. If you'd like to recycle all your old plastic bags, find a recycling center here. By the way, paper grocery bags are just as bad as plastic bags.

  1. Plastic bags take anywhere from 15 to 1000 years to decompose.
  2. Only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled in the United States. The rest end up in landfills, the ocean, or some other place in the environment. There's actually a giant garbage heap made mostly of plastic floating in the ocean that's twice the size of the United States.
  3. It's estimated that 1 million birds and thousands of turtles and other sea animals die each year after ingesting discarded plastic bags.
  4. More than 10 percent of washed-up debris polluting the U.S. coastline is made up of plastic bags.
  5. It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce the estimated 100 billion plastic bags Americans use each year.
  6. The petroleum used to produce 14 plastic bags can drive a car one mile.

Quick Poll

Will you (or have you already) switched to reusable plastic bags?

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Browse the slideshow below to see some reusable grocery bags we think you'll like.

Sowing Seeds Of Change Bag
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Make an environmental statement with this 100 percent organic cotton bag, which is made in Peru at a local farm co-op.

Organic Cotton "Sowing Seeds of Change" Bag at Envirosax.com, $29.95

The Washington post has a great informational graphic on paper and plastic bags.

Sources: GoGreenStreet.com, PaperNorPlastic.com, LiveStrong.com, ReuseThisBag.com.