The age old (well, since 1977) question "Paper or plastic?" has never seemed so relevant in today's disposable age. It is much more convenient to answer "A" or "B" from a stocked answer list than it is to present our own solution. The truth is, the secret option "C" is best for everyone, and here's why:
- Plastic bags, first introduced in 1977, now account for four out of every five bags handed out at grocery stores.
- Plastic bags tend to "fly away" out of cars, trashcans, and landfills, littering our roadways, land and sea. In fact, did you know that plastic bags are the fifth most collected item during coastal clean-ups? Yuck.
- Most plastic bags are made from polyethylene, which is made from crude oil and natural gas, nonrenewable resources. The US alone uses about 12 million barrels of oil every year just to keep up with the demand for plastic bags (current annual demand tops out at about 100 billion bags).
Sounds like paper bags are the favored option, right? Read on:
- The US will cut down 14 million trees each year to satisfy our demand for paper grocery bags.
- 2000 plastic bags weigh 30 pounds while 2000 paper bags weigh 280 pounds. So it requires a lot more fossil fuel to transport paper.
- In the landfill, paper bags generate 70 percent more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags.
- It takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag.
- Energy required to produce bags (in British thermal units): Plastic bags: 594 BTU; Paper bags: 2511 BTU.
- Research from the year 2000 shows 20 percent of paper bags were recycled, while one percent of plastic bags were recycled. Quite frankly, both of these numbers stink.
- Current research demonstrates that paper in today's landfills does not degrade or break down at a substantially faster rate than plastic does. In fact, a lack of water, light, oxygen, and other elements that are necessary for the degradation process inhibit complete degradability.
Statistics from www.epa.gov
Using reusable grocery bags is simple
It's easy to "BYOB"; keep a few cloth grocery bags in your car and a few by the front door.
Just one cloth bag, during the course of its long and prosperous lifetime, will eliminate the need for more than 1000 plastic bags! So just think how many trees and resources you'll save by utilizing just one bag let alone a four-pack of them.
While any old bag will do to help stop the unnecessary waste of disposable grocery bags, utilizing tote bags made from 100% cotton, a renewable resource, is best. There are many reusable cloth bag options available, including recycled cotton, organic cotton, and natural hemp. But experts agree that using any reusable cloth grocery bag will do the trick.