“Paper or plastic?”
Perhaps one of the most commonly questions in the past, is now rarely heard by consumers. Four out of five grocery bags in the US are now plastic (Reusablebags.com). However, the answer should not be merely plastic, the real answer is neither. Plastic bags are very harmful for the environment, and paper bags even more so. The best alternative is a reusable bag, which can save thousands of plastic bags over its lifetime.
Plastic bags are everywhere. We see them anywhere from the town grocery market to the convenience store down the street. Admittedly, plastic bags are very convenient. They are a cheap, hygienic way to transport one’s purchases. However, once they get home, there is not much use for the piece of plastic. Sure, some reuse them to line trashcans or to carry their things around. The truth is, the world goes through anywhere from five hundred billion to a trillion of plastic bags a year. The U.S. consumes about 100 million bags every year. Millions of those end up as litter every year. They fill our landfills and pollute the environment (Reusablebags.com).
Admittedly, the plastic bags are still a better alternative for the environment than the paper bags. According to National Geographic News, “plastic grocery bags consume 40 percent less energy, generate 80 percent less solid waste, produce 70 percent fewer atmospheric emissions, and release up to 94 percent fewer waterborne wastes, according to the [Film and Bag Federation]” (Roach). Also, it takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper (Reusablebags.com).
In reality both are extremely dangerous for the environment, as both cause litter and neither degrades very fast. Plastic bags, especially, which are not biodegradable. They actually photodegrade (which can take up to one thousand years), which means that instead of degrading to be part of the soil, they break down into smaller toxins, which pollute the soil and water...
Cited: Eco-friendly reusable bags, plus facts & news on plastic bag issue. 05 May 2009 .
Horovitz, Bruce. "Makers of plastic bags to use 40% recycled content by 2015." USA Today 20 Apr. 2009.
Richard, Phil. "Students Campaign Against Plastic Bags." Hesston College Today June & July 2008.
Roach, John. "Are Plastic Grocery Bags Sacking the Environment?" National Geographic News 2 Sept. 2003.
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