Paper or Plastic: Neither

There is one habit that we all can change today that will make an impact on the environment and that is paper bags and plastic bags/bottles consumption. I think most of us are not truly aware of the devastating effects of these items.

When I was in high school I did a project in my Marketing class about creating and selling a fake reusable bag brand. While I was doing research I was shocked at all the info and facts. for example,which bag do you think would be the most “eco friendly choice”, paper or plastic?

Well plastic bag production creates less waste than paper. However, plastic bags remain with us for a long, long time. Paper bags waste a lot of water but plastic bags waste a lot of electricity. The answer? NEITHER! You can read more about the breakdown on Tree Hugger.

i-am-not-a-plastic-bag-anya-hindmarch-photo

Our current consumption:

In the Us alone we use over 14,000,000,000(4) plastic bags are used per year and only 1% of plastic bags are returned for recycling (3). The worldwide consumption is at a mind blowing 4,000,000,000,000(3). Just one of those plastic bags is estimated to take 1,000 years to biodegrade in a landfill.

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Other Key Issues:

  1. Waste of our Precious Resources:
    • 14,000,000 trees cut down for paper bag consumption in the US each year(5)
    • 12,000,000 barrels of oil required for US annual plastic bag consumption(6)
    • Consider the energy, water and waste emissions to produce plastic and paper bags (ratio of 1 part pulp to 400 parts water to make paper bags)
  2. Damaging Wildlife:plasticbagPlastic bags kill an estimated 100,000(1) marine animals each year and the average number of pieces of plastic in each square mile of ocean 46,000(2)! I love my beaches here in cali and the beautiful marine life that lives in it.

What Can you do?

reusable bags

  • Use a cloth bag and save 6 six bags a week. That’s 22,176 bags in your lifetime. Ask a friend to do the same and that number doubles. Ask another friend and it triples. You get the idea.
  • Trader Joe’s has a very durable canvas bag that I own a couple of. They are better in me option to carry groceries in anyways! I job that would taken 3-4 plastic bags fits in my large canvas bag. Whole Foods also has some different size options to fit everyones needs (some of my bags pictured above)
  • If you are shopping at the mall, bring a bag or purchase a reusable bag at the cashier.
  • if you must buy a bag, recycle or repurpose
  • When a cashier offers you a bag for something you can carry or stick in your purse decline and save the bag!
  • From an energy standpoint, according to this Australian study, canvas bags are 14 times better than plastic bags and 39 times better than paper bags, assuming that canvas bags get a good workout and are used 500 times during their life cycle

 

Sources:
1.Sea Turtles Don’t Shop. Earth Resource Foundation.
2. Keep the Sea Plastic Free-Bin It. Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Heritage.
3. Plastic Bags: A Necessary Eyesore? Worldwatch Institute.
4.Sack Tax? ABC News. December 9, 2003.
5. Paper or Plastic?. Healthwell. March
6.Reusable Bags Tackle Plastic Bag Mess. Organic Trade Association
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