Go Green Today: Tips For Going Green - Plastic or Paper
Plastic or Paper
There is a rather important question which is posed to grocery shoppers each and every day which often seems to leave a person wondering just exactly what the most correct answer is. The question can possibly make a person, who may be simply buying some vegetables for dinner, wonder about the impact of their answer on the environment on a global scale. The question we are, of course, talking about is “Paper or plastic?”
This is, however surprisingly, not as easy a question to answer as one would truly hope it could be since the impact of each of the choices is often so mysterious and/or vague that it is difficult to really weigh the proper answer. Even when all of the statistics are known, one still wonders what is really the most appropriate answer because both have their rather major pros and cons to consider.
Let’s take a look at some of the main environmental attributes of each so you can make a more informed choice on your next visit to the grocery store. The statistics are from 2007 and based on paper and plastic bag usage in the United States.
Plastic bags are primarily of concern in seaside areas as they pose a threat to aquatic birds and other wildlife. In other parts of America plastic is surprisingly the more environmentally recommended choice. Plastic bags, however, generally do not biodegrade quickly and may last up to a thousand years in a landfill. Plastic bags are easier to manufacture, use less energy to produce, and the manufacturing process arguably has much less of a footprint on the environment than production of paper. Bags can also be recycled in many locations today. Annually plastic bags account for about 4 times the space in landfills than paper bags. The average American family may use 1500 of these bags a year.
The paper industry is very keen on people using paper bags and the general delusion that paper bags are more environmentally friendly. The production of paper bags involves logging and all of the issues of the timber industry. The environmental impact of logging is wise to consider and the manufacturing process involved in making paper is not so environmentally friendly. Paper bags use much more energy and other natural resources to produce than plastic bags. Paper bag production also poses an issue of possible air and water pollution. The good side of paper is that the bags can be composted and biodegrade quickly. In a landfill the process is slower, but much quicker than plastic.
The best answer right now is “Bring your own bag” and it is a trend that is thankfully sweeping through grocery stores today. Many stores are selling cloth or canvas bags and some stores even offer a discount at the register for customers who do bring their own bags. Thankfully there is now a push for biodegradable plastics as a great alternative when you don’t have your own bag with you. San Francisco is one city which has already set the standards requiring only biodegradable plastics in the city’s grocery stores. These bags biodegrade quickly and are a great choice when you forget to bring your own.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 30 August 2009 19:53 )