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Paper or Plastic?

Paper or Plastic?
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?

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  • deadhead By deadhead

    i agree with bring your own bag. I use a couple of hemp bags. It works out great. durable,and earth friendly. ~peace

  • UGA_Jenny By UGA_Jenny

    I got these great canvas bags for 99 cents each:

    I keep 15 of them in my trunk, they work great! I like them better than plastic or paper, they can carry heavy objects like milk gallons without fear of breaking.

  • lbisue By lbisue

    i agree, taking your own cloth bags is the only way to go. really not hard to make them if you sew. and you can make all different sizes. you can also use any paper bags you may have on hand to line the cloth bags so you don't have to throw them out.

  • neslec30 By neslec30

    Thanks for the web site UGAJENNY.I will start buying totes for now on instead of paper or plastic.I will let my family and friends know too!

  • mafalis By mafalis

    I use reusable totes. Have for many years. I encourage all my friends and family to do the same

  • bopperone By bopperone

    I am sick of all those plastic bags. I bought canvas material, took it to a tailor friend of mine and he made me 2 large, 2 medium and 2 small bags. I love them because they are washable.

  • rosemarie2259 By rosemarie2259

    I agree on using the cloth totebags also.I go to an Amish market where I live and they ask you plastic or paper but a lot of customers bring their ouw cloth bags.

  • cindy By cindy

    some years ago we bought a sail boat and started buying canvas bags to take down our clothing and food in. There isn't alot of storage or places for hard luggage.We would shop for food on our way to the boat and take the bags into the store with us. it became so easy and so comfotable that once back in the ciyt i just started take the canvas bag with me whenever i went shopping. so much eazier and stronger.

  • bluevase By bluevase

    Very interesting topic. I've seen this argument go back and forth like a tennis match over the years....alas, there seems there are pros and cons to both. Interestingly enough, our local grocery chain (in Texas) doesn't even ask anymore. If you want paper, you have to ask....sometimes with quite insistence. In addition, their standard plastic bags have diminished in strength over the years, and it isn't uncommon for the "handles" to rip and spill the contents of your groceries onto your drive when you are unloading them. :(

    I love the idea of cloth bags and have toyed with it over the years, yet never really done anything about it. Viewing this topic and seeing how many of you are doing so much for the environment in your own areas is very encouraging!

    Thanks to all! and thanks UGA_Jenny for the link! Have a great one!

  • tzepp By tzepp

    I reuse and recycle as much as possible. I also have canvas bags that I take to the market. They even wash!!!

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