How to Celebrate International Plastic Bag Free Day as a Small Business

If you’re shopping for a promotional bag, you may be looking for a shopping tote that helps your customer, advertises your small business, and also minimizes your environmental impact. Welcome to International Plastic Bag Free Day! Let this special day inspire you to pursue happy customers and business success as you lend a hand in reducing plastic pollution. 

What Is International Plastic Bag Free Day?

International Plastic Bag Free Day, celebrated every year on July 3, encourages people around the globe to cut down on the use of disposable plastic bags. The goal of the day is to decrease plastic pollution by eliminating the thin, filmy plastic bags commonly used in retail and grocery stores. International Plastic Bag Free Day encourages us to see that a world without the use of so much plastic is possible.  

Zero Waste Europe established International Plastic Bag Free Day in 2009, and it has become part of the Break Free from Plastic movement. By 2020, the movement had grown to nearly 6,500 individuals and over 2,400 organizations. The movement seeks solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. It aims to make the planet safer for humans, the environment, and wildlife.  

What Is a Single-Use Plastic Bag?

A single-use plastic bag is made primarily from fossil fuel-based chemicals (petrochemicals) and is meant to be discarded right after use—sometimes, in mere minutes. The thin plastic (called polyethylene) used in single-use plastic bags was discovered by accident in England in 1933. Disposable plastic bags began replacing cloth and thicker plastic bags in Europe in 1965, and started spreading to the USA and other countries by 1979. By 1989 single-use plastic bags had almost entirely replaced paper bags globally. 

Why Is Reducing Plastic Bag Use Important for the Planet?

Photo: Creative Commons

When it comes to single-use plastic bags and environmental impact, numbers say it best: 

  • It takes between 100 and 1,000 years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill.1,2 That’s a bunch of generations inheriting our garbage!
  • Plastic bags don’t usually break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment.
  • About 500 billion plastic bags are used on a global scale every year1 (up to five trillion are produced 2). A single-use plastic bag is used once (for about 25 minutes) and then becomes litter, where its true lifespan begins (see first bullet), filling landfills, polluting land, polluting air, and poisoning sea life for up to 1,00 years.
  • Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture. The oil required to make 14 single-use plastic bags is equivalent to the gas required to drive one mile.1
  • About 87% of plastic bags are never recycled.1
  • By 2050, the world’s oceans could contain more plastic than fish measured by weight.3
  • The plastic typically used in single-use plastic bags can contain chemical additives such as endocrine disruptors, which are associated with negative health effects including cancers, birth defects and immune system suppression in humans and wildlife.

Single-use plastic bags have a detrimental effect on the environment, wildlife, and human health. Finding alternatives makes good sense! 

Plastic Bags: Where’s the Good News?

There is so much awareness locally, nationally, and globally about what we can and need to do, that action is being taken left and right. Momentum is only building as production of single use plastic bags gives way to our common love of and requirement for clean air, clean water, and healthy plants, animals, and humans. A few facts about progress: 

  • In 2014 California became the first state to ban single-use plastic bags.
  • By 2018, 311 local bag ordinances against single-use carryout bags had been adopted in 24 states, including Hawaii.
  • As of 2018, 127 countries had adopted some form of legislation to regulate single-use plastic bags.
  • Americans use an average of 365 plastic bags per person per year. This is not good news, but this is: People in Denmark use an average of four plastic bags per year. It can be and is being done; let’s give the Danes a round of applause and follow their lead!
  • By 2018, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) finds that 127 out of 192 countries reviewed have enacted some form of national legislation to address the problem of plastic bags.4
  • In 2020 China committed to strengthen national plastic pollution control, beginning an era of single-use plastic reduction.

The best news: No one is in the dark! When it comes to plastic pollution, it is clear that the proverbial “emperor” is wearing no clothes, or fewer clothes, at least. Reduction of single-use plastic is one of many global, cultural shifts toward responsible living. Just as the plastic bag debacle developed over decades, correction takes time as well. Repair is underway and progress is being made, one person and one transaction at a time. 

How Can My Small Business Make an Impact?

Every person and every customer has the chance to move the needle! You can help by: 

  • Offering reusable bags
  • Doing away with single-use bags
  • Promoting International Plastic Bag Free Day by requesting your customers bring their own bags or do without if possible.

It feels good to be part of the solution! Your customers will appreciate how you make it easy for them to pitch in and say “no thanks” to plastic pollution.  

What Are the Branding Benefits of Reusable Bags?

Putting your name on a reusable bag is a great way to lend a hand to shoppers and guests, while getting behind a cause that makes every life better. Branding is about connecting with customers, and a reusable bag is a good vehicle for doing so. When you customize a reusable bag or tote, you see long-term benefits in two ways: 1. your advertising impact lasts longer on a reusable bag, and 2. your brand engages with your customer on an emotionally relevant issue.  

What Are the Best Reusable Bags for Branding?

Encourage customers to be part of the plastic pollution solution by offering them reusable bags instead of single-use plastic. With your name on the front, you get visibility every time they use, and you both feel confident about your carbon footprint. The popular options are designed for the long-haul, not the landfill: 

Budget Shopper Tote with Gray Trim: Note the bright color options and gray trim for eye catching visibility; gusseted bottom for increased capacity; and water-resistant, reusable, recyclable material you can feel good about. 

Large Wave Patterned Shopping Bag: Featuring a trendy pattern and wide gusset for generous packing, this bag also includes reinforced handles and a plastic bottom insert to keep contents organized. 

Medium Galina Cotton Tote Bag: Long, reinforced handles allow hand or shoulder carrying. Choose your handle color to match or contrast your personalized logo and message. 

Foldable Shopper Tote: This foldaway tote features double handles and folds into the corner, held smartly with a draw string closure. 

Eco-Friendly Kraft Paper Gayle Tote Bag: This bag combines the natural look of kraft paper reinforced with modern materials to make a trendy tote that’s right on time for today’s customer. 

Kody Tote Bag with Ripstop Trim: Double handles on this polyester tote make for easy loading while the attached pouch makes for convenient storage. 

Contrast Chaya Tote: This tote features a solid body color with contrasting trim that makes this bag eye-catching and fashion-forward. 

Medium Piper Polyester Tote Bag: This sturdy, fashionable tote has reinforced handles and is perfect for grocery runs, conventions, poolside, and picnics. 

Recycled Cotton Emma Grocery Tote: Can grocery shopping get any more stylish? This trendy tote contains recycled cotton collected from garment cutting waste, blended with recycled polyester. 

Two-Tone Insulated Grocery Tote: This insulated bag features a front open pocket, reinforced handles, and a thermal food safe aluminum foil liner. 

Plastic Bags Are a Big Topic

Everyone plays a small part in progress and that is the key. We can all try to move the ball forward just a little bit. Together, we will cross the finish line, breathing deeply (fresh air!), living longer, and saying “thank you” to this miracle called Mother Earth.  



Karleen Wise Andersen

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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