Monday, January 22, 2007

What 380 Billion bags looks like

So we consume 380 billion bags each year? Wonder what that would look like? Well, I have my first idea of what it would look like (vaguely). I have approximately 80 plastic bags in a laundry bag at home. The bage is about 2 feet by 2 feet by 1 foot (or about 4 square feet) in volume. So I took 380 billion divided by 80, and the number equals 4.75 billion. That's 4.75 billion laundry bags full of plastic bags! To see how many square feet this is approximately, let's multiply 4.75 billion times 4 square feet (volume of the laundry bag), and we get 19 billion square feet!!! How big is this? 19 billion divided by 27,878,400 sqare feet (one square mile) equals about 681 square miles!!!!! Wow, that is a lot of bags. I know these are very rough estimations and might not be too accurate, but I think it gives us somewhat of an idea of how much 380 billion bags is.


Michelle Verges, Project Director said...

Jeff, I'm so glad you asked the question of what 380 billion bags would look like!! It's an important question to ask because it's very difficult for us to imagine what that pile would actually look like.

So to make this abstract number feel a little bit more "real," our class is going to address this questions head on:

At midpoint of the semester, we're going to have a "mini pile-up" demonstration in class. For this activity, students will bring their own plastic bags to class so that we may create our first pile. As part of this exercise, we're going to count up the number of bags brought to class for statistical purposes and we're going to refine the class survey (that's right, I've created a prototype survey). To be sure, this demonstration will also be filmed as part of the documentary.

Moreover, this activity will prepare us for BagFest because community members will be invited to donate their plastic bags. So we're going to form a massive pile at the festival--and we're going to count the number of bags that are donated.

Combined, the classroom and festival pile-up activities will give us a real, concrete understanding of what 380 billion plastic bags actually look like. So in case I haven't been clear: Save your plastic bags!! :0) M

Anonymous said...

Good experimental work, Jeff! And now that Michelle posted the 2 million bags picture, we can have the visual idea to go with your math. For future reference--and maybe for the class activity--, the correct unit for volume is cubic feet. That is, 2 feet x 2 feet x 1 foot gives us 4 cubic feet of volume.