Paper or Plastic?

   By drodriguez  May 08, 2007

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,, 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?

Make a Comment

dynocat by dynocat | Belgrade, MT
Aug 30, 2007

I'd like to see all of us using reusable cloth bags when shopping. I have the best canvas bags that are not only sturdy and utilitarian, but attractive. String bags mentioned are also a great idea.

There are some items that require plastic packaging for freshness or sanitary reasons. I would really like to avoid them when possible though.

shesamazingnyc by shesamazingnyc | New York, NY
Jul 25, 2007

I use string bags. They hold a TON and scrunch up into nothing when you're not using them. I use them for everything.

Stephannie by Stephannie | Cherry Hill, NJ
Jul 10, 2007

We really need to help ourselves by thinking about how we use products today. We can no longer just sit around and do nothig to help our enviornment.

mackie80 by mackie80 | Maplewood, MN
Jun 30, 2007

I use the paper bags from the store to put my recyclables in when the truck picks them up. I recently went to IKEA, and they now require a 5cent donation if you want to use a bag. The money goes to a company that plants trees to counter the effects of the plastic. I couldn't believe that people actually were grumbling about it! Seemed like a fantastic idea to me, especially when a lot of the time you can use the some of stuff you buy there (like a wastebasket)to hold the rest. The cloth bag idea is probably best, but how many people will really do it? Maybe if the stores had promotions for people that brought their own it would work.

springbaby by springbaby | unsubscribe, MA
Jun 08, 2007

I like recyable plastic bags.

pipnbronte by pipnbronte | Des Moines, IA
May 23, 2007

I hate using plastic bags! This falls under my "pack-in, pack-out" theory of corporations--if they put it out there, they should take it back. Some of the local stores have recycle bins for plastic bags, but they may as well be hidden! I think they should be REQUIRED to offer a person a place to recycle.

sweetpotato by sweetpotato | Wisconsin Dells, WI
May 22, 2007

I think if everyone tried to reuse there plastic bags that we would use a lotless. Of course, thats in a perfect world.For the time being,I try to do my part

garber6th by garber6th | Lomita, CA
May 21, 2007

I agree with MommaGeorge... I try to avoid products that are wrapped individually. I use my own reusable containiners and when I can I even reuse plastic storage bags. I also use reusable grocery bags. When I went to a grocery store in Germany I noticed that they charge you for bags so most people bring their own reusable type bags. Maybe if here in the US we hit people here where it hurts (their wallets) maybe they would be more conscientious.

MommaGeorge by MommaGeorge | Beaverton, OR
May 18, 2007

I think cutting down on plastics are a good thing and at the grocery line is a start....BUT what about all the packaging from manufacturers? If packaging could comed wrapped once instead fo multiple times just "think" how much could be saved!

canelaajena by canelaajena | SPRING, TX
May 18, 2007

How about cloth bags? I also like bio bags. The basket idea is good -except when going on a bif shopping trip. I would have to carry several baskets and that can get heavy and bulky. I think cloth bags are the solution. The can be reused over and over.

Tawnia by Tawnia | Whitesboro, NY
May 17, 2007

It seems the consesus is bring your own bag, which is what we have been doing the past few months. And if I forget, I try to put everything in my purse of we carry the items to the car without a bag. This includes when we shop for clothes, shoes or other items.

lavenderblue2u by lavenderblue2u | robinson, PA
May 14, 2007

Cloth bags are so nice. Any one rember the old potato and onion sacks? I found some at a yard sale and they were so soft and nice I used them for pillow cases.

hometowngirl by hometowngirl | Allentown, PA
May 12, 2007

I use the cloth bags from the grocery store. They can be washed, are sturdy and great to carry the heavy bottles and cans. It saves both plastic and paper.

mommagoddess by mommagoddess | Philadelphia, PA
May 12, 2007

I shop at Aldi's bags there are ten cents each. They are plastic but they are heavy so we get a lot of use out of them and when I am done using them I use the bags to put recyclables in. I just don't see how sturdy cloth totes are when it comes to groceries. Then with the meats and freezable items. I don't get that. I should though purchase some more cloth totes for things that aren't heavy When I am just out-going to yard sales or wherever I use cloth totes.

dsunshinegoddess by dsunshinegoddess | Philadelphia, PA
May 11, 2007

I do alot of in house recycling... paper and cardboard, plastic, glass and cans. I was so excited when my city started picking up plastic. I have now been inspired by all your comments to purchase totes for my groceries. I, too, am fed up with the plastic ones. I know that every little bit we do helps the enviroment. Thank you all.