Final Draft: Comparison/Contrast Essay Paper or Plastic?
It's an age old question when checking out at the local grocer: Paper or plastic? It seems like an easy choice but there is a myriad number of details hidden in each bag. Both types of bags are designed to make carrying a variety of items easier. The type of bag that is chosen will affect consumers health and the environment. Consumers need to be informed on how these bags are created, what effects these bags will have on the environment, and what will happen to the bags after they have been used.
Both types of bags utilize natural resources to be created. Plastic bags are made from petroleum, a non-renewable oil product. “Plastic is a by- product of oil refining and accounts for four percent of the worlds total oil production” (“Paper vs. Plastic,” par. 16). While four percent might not seem that much, it amounts to twelve million barrels of oil a year. The oil is then manipulated into polymers. Polymers are simple molecular configurations of carbon and hydrogen atoms that link together repeatedly to form chains (Wiseman 119). Polyethylene, one of five types of polymers, is used to create plastic. Besides the fuel burning machinery used to acquire the oil, electricity, which is produced through the burning of fossil fuels, is the main energy source used in the manufacturing of polyethylene plastics.
Paper is derived from trees, which is a renewable resource. To create paper, the logging industry must first find and mark all the trees to be felled. The trees are then cut down and removed from the area, mostly by truck. “Trees must dry at least three years before they can be used” (“Paper vs. Plastic,” par. 5). The bark is stripped from the tree, cut into one inch squares, and cooked in extreme heat. The wood chips are then broken down into a pulp by soaking in a limestone and sulfurous acid bath for eight hours. “It takes approximately three tons of wood chips to make one ton of pulp” (“Paper vs....
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“Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs).” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 08Aug2008. EPA. 21Sep2008. .
Wiseman, Alan. The World Without Us. New York: St. Martins, 2007.
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