“Paper or plastic?”
This question about grocery bag choice stresses many people out – at least those who care about the environment. Through documentaries about plastic, we’ve learned about the horrors of this material – how it ends up in the North Pacific Gyre in the stomachs of marine animals, how much plastic bags are littered, and how long it takes for plastic bags to degrade. So, at least whenever I get the chance, I ask for paper bags which can be recycled.
However, this is misinformed logic. The production of paper bags execute over 14 million trees every year. While plastic bags pose many recycling difficulties, paper bags are more detrimental to the environment during production. Producing paper emits 70% more pollution than the production of plastic bags. Additionally, in order to produce paper, 4 times the amount of fuel and energy needed to produce a plastic bag is necessary. Furthermore, the production of paper uses 3 times more water than plastic bags. Lastly, the EPA has stated that paper does not degrade significantly faster than plastic in landfills.
But just because plastic bags are less environmentally impactful than paper bags, they still have a negative impact! Plastic bags still take hundreds of years to dissolve in landfills, and have deathly consequences when dropped into the ocean on marine wildlife.
So the next time you’re asked “Paper or Plastic?” answer with your own statement. “I’m using a resuable bag – nothing for me!”