Paper or Plastic?

Grocery Stores Prepare for Plastic banWould you like paper or plastic? Everyone’s heard the question at the grocery store as their items are being rung up. In the plastic vs. paper bag debate, a number of consumers opt for paper bags, believing that they are the better choice for the environment than their plastic counterparts, when in reality, reusable shopping bags are the best alternatives of them all.

You generally hear all the drawbacks of plastic bag use but, believe it or not, when compared to paper bags there are some benefits to plastic. Plastic bags take less energy to manufacture and recycle than paper bags do. They are also more light-weight than paper so they use less energy to transport.

While the benefits are substantial, there are still many downsides to plastic bags. One such drawback is the non-renewable resource oil, that is used to create them. The bags are so lightweight that even when disposed of properly, they still create litter issues–the slightest breeze will cause them to take flight. When they start to break up in the elements, they create small bits of plastic that are further harmful to wildlife and the environment.

Even if they were diligently recycled (which they aren’t), plastic bags continue to require massive amounts of energy to recycle into new plastic products. They are essentially downcycled, which means they are made into plastic products that aren’t recyclable. The new plastic created is of lesser quality and strength than the initial product and they aren’t recyclable at that point.

Paper bags have their benefits. They hold more and are sturdier than single-use plastic bags. Wood used to make paper is a renewable resource. They are biodegradable, so minimally-inked paper bags can be composted. Paper is recycled in much higher numbers than plastic.

However, paper bags aren’t exactly the eco-friendly solution people might think they are. It takes a lot of trees to make paper bags, many times resulting in deforestation and impacting habitats. Although it’s possible to grow more trees, they have a slow growth rate and companies have to be dedicated to sustainable forestry.

When your bagger asks “Paper or plastic” the next time you’re at the grocery store, choose a reusable shopping bag from instead. They are the only environmentally friendly and responsible choice.

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