Plastic is made from petroleum, which means plastic bags are one way we are depleting our oil supply.
About 8% to 10% of our total oil supply goes to making plastic. If you took the bags an average American throws away each year and converted it back into petroleum, you could drive about 60 miles on that fuel. But we just throw it away instead.
So why is petroleum a precious resource but bags are not? Petroleum is valuable enough to protect as part of our national security. We risk American lives and planetary health for our oil supply, but once it is turned into plastic, we just throw it away. Plastic deserves better. It deserves to be reused, not thrown away.
Note: Here’s how scientists calculate the petroleum equivalent of a bag: It takes .48 MJ to produce a bag. MJ stands for megajoule, which is enough energy to heat a liter of water to boiling. That .48 MJ of energy comes from the petroleum that the plastic itself is made from, as well as the petroleum burned as energy in the manufacturing process to make the bag. An average car consumes 6.7 MJ in driving 1 mile, or the equivalent of 14 bags per mile driven.