It seems the trek to a greener world is more complex than ever. San Francisco’s recently announced that it would institute the first ban on polyethylene shopping bags, quite a feat since the city alone uses 181 million of them a year. Cheap and easy to use, the soon to be scarce carry-all also produces less pollution when manufactured than paper bags. And all long we thought asking for paper was doing the environmentally mature thing. Here's one illustration of the latest debate over paper vs plastic:
According to Institute for Lifecycle Environmental Assessment (ILEA), an environmental advocacy organization, choosing plastic over paper is the preferred choice. According to its website, www.ilea.org, two plastic bags produce 72% fewer pollutants than a single paper bag. Not to mention, according to the Environmental Literacy Council, it would take about seven trucks to transport the same number of paper bags as can be transported by a single truck full of plastic bags.
So here in the United States, a new choice has surfaced: Poly or Bio? Biodegradable plastic bags used to cost more than three times with less ability than the poly bags, but new products are out there to help close the price and functionality gaps. Keith Edwards, a business manager for BASF estimates that biodegradable bags will cost only 3 to 4 cents more than the 1 to 2 cent poly bag.
Regardless of chemical makeup, grocery store giants such as Pathmark and Whole Foods offer rebates for re-using bags (2 cents and 10 cents respectively) and there's a push in general for bringing your own bags (cloth, net, hemp or otherwise). On April 19th, Singapore held its first Bring Your Own Bag Day and managed to save an estimated 100,000 plastic bags. If you're ready for the full facts about US consumption watch this informative clip: Convenient Truths
So what's the answer? Is San Francisco on the right track with the conversion to Bio bags? It will create a whole new market, that’s for sure. Paper bags? We need sustainable forests. Stick with the cheap and easy poly? or make your own statement with bags of your own?