The Life Cycle of a Plastic Bag [Infographic]

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Although you may only use a plastic bag for about 20 minutes, its lifespan is much longer than that.

In fact, it could sit in a landfill for 1,000 years – that is, if, by then, it hasn’t been picked up by animals, potentially eaten and posing a more significant threat to their health.

The cultural practice of using single-use plastic bags has got to go, and this infographic breaks down exactly why and what can be done about it.

A plastic bag is produced…and tossed

According to the World Economic Forum, 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. This plastic is estimated to kill over 1 million marine animals each year.


Plastic bags are a ubiquitous part of our lives. They are used to carry groceries, clothes, and other items. But what happens to plastic bags after they are used?

The lifecycle of a plastic bag begins with the extraction of oil or natural gas, which are the raw materials used to make plastic. The oil or natural gas is then refined into a substance called ethylene, which is used to make polyethylene, the material that plastic bags are made of.

Once the polyethylene is made, it is then extruded into a thin film. The film is then cut into the desired size and shape, and handles are added. The finished plastic bags are then shipped to stores and other businesses.

After a plastic bag is used, it is either recycled or thrown away. If it is recycled, it will be melted down and reused to make new plastic products. However, most plastic bags are not recycled. Instead, they are thrown away and end up in landfills or the environment.

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Plastic bags that end up in landfills can take hundreds of years to decompose. In the meantime, they can leach harmful chemicals into the soil and groundwater. Plastic bags that end up in the environment can also cause problems. They can be ingested by animals, which can lead to death. They can also block waterways and clog storm drains.

The Problem of Plastic Pollution

plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is a major environmental problem. Every year, millions of tons of plastic end up in the environment. This plastic can harm wildlife, pollute waterways, and even enter the food chain.

One of the most serious problems with plastic pollution is the time it takes to decompose. A plastic bag can take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill. In the meantime, it can release harmful chemicals into the soil and groundwater.

Plastic pollution is also a problem in the oceans. Every year, millions of tons of plastic end up in the ocean. This plastic can harm marine life, pollute beaches, and even enter the food chain.

What Can We Do?

There are a number of things that we can do to reduce plastic pollution. We can:

  • Recycle plastic bags. This is the best way to ensure that plastic bags do not end up in landfills or the environment.
  • Use reusable bags. Reusable bags are a great way to reduce our reliance on single-use plastic bags.
  • Avoid single-use plastics whenever possible. This includes items such as straws, utensils, and water bottles.
  • Educate others about the problem of plastic pollution. The more people who know about the problem, the more likely we are to find solutions.
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By taking these steps, we can help to reduce plastic pollution and protect our environment.

The life cycle of a plastic bag infographic
Greener Ideal Staff Avatar