Paper Bags Versus Plastic Bags
Every day in this country, people are given the choice of paper or plastic before exiting the supermarket. Although most of those same people would agree that neither is necessarily the best choice, the decision between paper or plastic bags is commonly made without the knowledge of the differences between them. While paper bags and plastic bags serve the same purpose, there are many important differences concerning consumption, production, pollution, recyclability, and biodegradability. The rate at which consumers use plastic and paper bags is alarming, and worth thoughtful consideration. Americans consume more than 20 billion paper bags (28 million trees) and more than 100 billion plastic bags each year; enough bags that if “tied end to end, could circle the Earth 63 times!” (The Washington Post; “More Than Meets the Eye”) The average family of four uses 1,460 plastic bags each year. “Experts estimate that 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are consumed and discarded annually worldwide – more than a million per minute!” (Larry West; “Paper, Plastic, or Something Better?”) Because of the enormous amount of plastic bags handed out, many communities have decided to ban them altogether. This has resulted in the increase in paper bag use in those communities. In the production of both paper and plastic bags, valuable natural resources are used. “Paper comes from trees that have to be grown or found, then marked and felled. After a three-year wait for the logs to dry, they are stripped of bark and then chipped into one-inch squares. The chips are cooked with heat and pressure, and then digested with limestone and sulfurous acid until the wood becomes pulp. The pulp is then washed using thousands of gallons of fresh water and bleach before pressed into finished paper.” (The Washington Post; “More Than Meets the Eye”) The machines required in producing the paper bags use...
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