Last time I wrote about plastic bags, I asked you to estimate how many you’ve received in the last week. As many as the average person, you think? If so, you better start refusing some of them when they’re offered, because the average family of four consumes 1500 plastic bags a year.

In the United States.

500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year. That’s 1,000,000,000,000.

And only .6 percent to 4 percent of those 1,000,000,000,000 get recycled.

When my husband and I visited Germany in 1993, he talked me into walking up to the corner store for him and getting him a six pack of beer. Little did I know how the Germans avoid waste. “Sechs bier, bitte,” I told the clerk, and she handed me six bottles–not only with no plastic bag, but also with no cardboard carrier. And I juggled those six bottles all the way back to the motel.

Good for the Germans.

Will Americans ever follow suit? We could at least print messages on the bags urging people to recycle. The one in the picture claims it’s even biodegradable. What? In under a hundred years? And will it be nontoxic when it does degrade? Are those things possible?