So, after living in Korea for two years, I have noticed just how wasteful Americans are when it comes to plastic bags.

Every other day when I’m in the grocery store (we are some serious eaters) I watch the baggers put eggs in one plastic bag, a bottle of wine in another. Make that 2 (for support) for the bottle of wine. The first few times I went to the store upon returning from Korea, I winced, wondering if I should give this poor bag boy a little lesson on saving the planet one less plastic bag at a time.

So, I have started doing what we had to do in Korea. Bring my own bag.

In Korea, they will not offer you a bag at the big retail grocery stores. You have to ask for one (in Korean) and it costs 5 cents. Smart smart! But really they have no choice. A country with the landmass of the state of Indiana and a population of 50 million people, Korea simply has no room for excess waste. Especially plastic bags.

According to the website World Watch, plastic bags aren’t all bad. Compared with paper bags, producing plastic ones uses less energy and water and generates less air pollution and solid waste. Plastic bags also take up less space in a landfill. But many of these bags never make it to landfills; instead, they go airborne after they are discarded—getting caught in fences, trees, even the throats of birds, and clogging gutters, sewers, and waterways.

Here are a few more fun facts from World Watch.

Did You Know?
*Plastic bags start as crude oil, natural gas, or other petrochemical derivatives, which are transformed into chains of hydrogen and carbon molecules known as polymers or polymer resin. After being heated, shaped, and cooled, the plastic is ready to be flattened, sealed, punched, or printed on.
*The first plastic “baggies” for bread, sandwiches, fruits, and vegetables were introduced in the United States in 1957. Plastic trash bags started appearing in homes and along curbsides around the world by the late 1960s.
*North America and Western Europe account for nearly 80 percent of plastic bag use—though the bags are increasingly common in developing countries as well.
*A quarter of the plastic bags used in wealthy nations are now produced in Asia.
*Each year, Americans throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags. (Only 0.6 percent of plastic bags are recycled.)
*The Irish have been known to call the ever-present bags their “national flag”; South Africans have dubbed them the “national flower.”


  1. FYI, most bags cost 50 won, which translates to about 5 cents, not 50 cents…

    Korean plastic bags are not only thicker – they're stronger. They're almost designed to be reused; American plastic bags can't easily say the same.

    Asking for bags is pretty simple: 'bong-tu hana (or du or set or however many you need) juseyo'.

    In the end, 5 cents to carry my stuff home won't break the bank, and I end up reusing them until they get dirty or torn. No biggie 🙂


  2. Chris in South Korea you are right about that price. As Whit just confirmed! I will change that price.

    But I am a firm believer in BYOB!


  3. Donna says:

    Here in Canada we are seeing a huge push to bring your own bag. Most of the big stores now charge 5cents per bag for the plastic ones. We have a fair size collection of cloth bags. I still have my e-mart bag that keep in my purse for quick shopping trips. And last year at Christmas I packed gifts in the cloth bags.


  4. I'm with you! In Kenya & throughout Africa, plastic shopping bags are part of the landscape. The children fashion them into balls to play with.


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