That's the average amount of time a plastic bag is used. Yet plastic bags impact our environment—and our health—for decades. That’s because globally, one million single-use plastic bags are used every minute and only one percent of plastic bags are recycled each year. Yet the world’s manufacturers make as many as five trillion plastic bags annually. That means that each year, as many as 4 trillion, 950 billion plastic bags are trashed. Many end up in our ocean where they can harm animals and the ecosystem. 

Along with other partner organizations, 5 Gyres has fought to solve this problem. In addition to providing scientific research and testifying about single-use plastic bags, our 2009 JUNKride tour—in which co-founders Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen cycled from Vancouver to Mexico to raise awareness about plastic pollution—included a call to action on a nation-wide plastic bag ban.

In 2014, California became the first state to ban plastic bags, which made international news—especially after an industry-supported referendum suspended the law in 2015. Finally, in 2016, Californians voted to overturn SB-270 and ban the bag once and for all. The decision could set the tone for how the rest of the country deals with the plastic bag problem.

The thing to remember about single-use plastic bags is you can avoid them. It’s simple: Pledge to go #plasticfree and bring your own reusable bag to the store—or carry out your items if you forget. 

Here are three more #plasticfree actions you can take today:

  • Ask store managers to switch to a “bag on request” policy, rather than putting items in bags when they’re not asked for.
  •  Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop on the fight against single-use plastics!
  • Check out our Plastic Free Shopping Guide for options on how to live without disposable bags.