Fact & Fiction

Fiction: Plastic Bag Litter Is a Problem
In Canada, plastic shopping bags are a serious litter problem.

Fact: Truth is plastic shopping bags represent less than 1% of all litter in Canada.
While litter may be a serious problem in some countries, plastic shopping bags are not considered a litter problem in Canada. Litter audit data in Canada reports that plastic shopping bags are a miniscule component of the municipal litter stream. Litter is a people problem, not a litter problem.

Fiction: Reusable Bags are “Greener” than Plastic
They are better for the environment than plastic bags.

Fact: Not necessarily. All bags have environmental impacts and it depends on the bag, how it is used, and how often it is used. Reusables are not quite as green as most people think.

  • Reusable bags are not recyclable in Canada ultimately ending up in landfill.
  • Reusable bags are single-purpose.
  • Reusable bags have a much higher carbon footprint according to various government studies.
  • More info on reusable bags

Fiction: Plastic Bags are Imported, not Made in Canada

Fact: 90% of the plastic bags used by Canadian grocery stores are made locally.

Plastic bag manufacturing is a vibrant business in Canada employing thousands of Canadians. There is a large concentration of family-run, plastic bag manufacturing companies in Ontario, with 50% located in the Toronto area and 50% in smaller communities across the province. 90% of reusable bags are made off-shore in countries like China.

Fiction: Paper is Better than Plastic
Many believe that paper bags are more environmentally friendly than plastic bags because they are made from a renewable resource, can biodegrade, and are recyclable.

Fact: Plastic shopping bags outperform paper bags environmentally – on manufacturing, on reuse, on solid waste volume and generation. Life Cycle Assessments (LCA’s) around the world show that the manufacture of paper grocery bags has a heavier environmental impact than the manufacture of plastic shopping bags.

More info on paper bags

Fiction: Plastic Bags Aren’t Recycled in Canada

Fact: Recycling rates for plastic shopping bags are very high.
Most Canadians have access to recycling by either curbside pick-up and/or return to retail. Recycled bags are remanufactured locally into new bags, outdoor furniture, water pipes, flooring, office supplies, plastic lumber and more!

Fiction: Plastics Bags are Made from Oil
Canada’s plastic shopping bags are made from oil, are a waste of oil, and oil is a non-renewable resource.

Fact: In Canada, plastic shopping bags are primarily made from ethane, a by-product of natural gas production.

Fiction: Plastic Bags Are “Single-Use”
Conventional plastic shopping bags provided by grocery and convenience stores are “single-use”, used only once as a carry-out bag.
Fact: Conventional plastic bags are multi-use.
Plastic shopping bags have high reuse and recycling across Canada.
Over 75% of plastic bags are reused at least once. Plastic shopping bags serve important secondary purposes such as helping to manage household and pet waste, carrying lunches, storage, recycling organics in some municipalities and much more!

Fiction: Bags are a Convenience, not a Necessity. Plastic shopping bags are just a convenience for impulse shopping and are not necessary.

Fact: Conventional plastic shopping bags are not just a convenience, but a necessity.
Plastic shopping bags are multi-use/multi-purpose and provide a sterile and safe way to transport groceries. They are not just used for groceries, but are essential as they are often reused to help manage household waste, pet waste and more.

Fiction: Bags Should Degrade in Landfill
Bags should degrade in landfill and not last thousands of years.

Fact: In a properly engineered landfill, nothing is meant to degrade. No bag – biodegradable, reusable or conventional plastic shopping bag – will decompose in landfill, which actually helps the environment by not producing dangerous greenhouse gases like methane. More info on landfills

Fiction: Plastic Bag Bans are Better for the Environment. They totally eliminate plastic bags from the marketplace. Bans have no negative environmental consequences and will solve an array of environmental concerns.

Fact: Not true. In fact, most bans fail. Plastic shopping bags are such a small part of the litter and waste streams that their total elimination will have no appreciable impact on overall litter reduction. From an environmental perspective, alternatives to plastic bags can have a higher environmental impact and can have a number of unintended negative consequences including forcing households to buy thicker kitchen catchers to manage waste. More info on science