Green Options › Forums › Anything but Green › Featured Debates › Debate of the Day 3: Paper or Plastic?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Debate of the Day 3: Paper or Plastic?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Now of course we'll throw in the caveat that you aren't equipped with your reusable canvas bag or a furoshiki and you have more stuff than can be carried....

 

Basically, among the current status quo, which is the lesser of the two evils? Paper may be recyclable, but how much is actually getting recycled? When it comes to landfill usage, the plastic bags don't take up much space (though that space is pretty permanent...)

 

What do folks think? Maybe this will just be an educational exercise on why both are so bad :)

post #2 of 8

Well paper bags require more energy to produce and trees to be cut down, but are easily recyclable.

Plastic bags require less energy to produce, but are not recyclable.  They are reusable for other applications, but only if your area has a specific plastic grocery bag recycling program (every retail store in California is now required by law to have one, for example).

So from most to least environmentally friendly I would say:

1) Plastic if there's a specific recycling program
2) Paper
3) Plastic if there's no recycling program

post #3 of 8

I think that we should follow a general concept with non biodegrageable products - no single use items at all, be it plastic bags, bottles etc 

 

I think plastic is a fantastic substance for making computer casings or car panels where they will be used for a number of years and can be easily recycled  

post #4 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by kehughes

I think that we should follow a general concept with non biodegrageable products - no single use items at all, be it plastic bags, bottles etc 

 

I agree.  Single use items create a huge amount of waste.  Last fall, I went to the SF Green Festival and met a man who makes baskets, necklaces, lamps, etc. from single use chop sticks.  It's great that he's diverting some of that waste from ending up in landfills.  But it's amazing how many get tossed every year.  This is a picture of the founder of Chop Stick Art sitting atop a mountain of their supplies:

 

post #5 of 8

Wow you know being chop stick challenged myself, I never stopped to think how wasteful single-use chopsticks are.  I guess being the loser white dude who had to use a fork in place of chop sticks was actually an environmental benefit!

post #6 of 8

Way to go with those forks, Dana.  ;)   

 

As for me, paper all the way!  I much prefer them knowing they're easily recyclable (and often made from recycled fibers themselves).  I also reuse the paper bags to take out the trash and for other random household chores.....

post #7 of 8

 I just got the most stylish reusable shopping bag for $1.50 from my favorite market, Takata's in Hawaill. I'm giving one to everyone I know for a belated Earth Day present!

 

As for paper or plastic, I have uses for both at home. I like paper for indoor recycling containers (til they get full and get taken out to mixed recycling) but plastic can be useful, too, and sometimes when I'm walking home from the store they're easier to carry.

 

I guess I feel guilty either way.

 

 

post #8 of 8

I did a little research, and wow is this complicated!!

 

Most paper bags are 40-75% virgin pulp and 25-60% recycled paper (according to the American Forest and Paper Association).  Virgin pulp is needed for strength and elasticity.  Plastic bags are also primarily made from virgin material, for strength.

 

Plastic bag are more effective to make- their raw material yield is more than 90%, compared to paper bags 75%.

 

Manufacturing plastic bags releases 92% fewer emissions into the air than manufacturing paper bags.

 

HOWEVER, shoppers tend to use 3-4 plastic bags for every 1 paper bag.  And about 45% of paper bags are recycled, compared to 5% of plastic bags. 

 

When I forget my cloth bags, I use both- and then reuse plastic for little trash cans, and paper for sending packages (rather than buying the brown paper rolls). 

 

(Stats from deliciouslivingmag.com/greenliving/dl_article_222/, which had a lot of other good info, including that since paper bags are biodegradable, "gardeners can throw garden clippings into a paper bag, then put the whole package into a composting bin, which hastens the breakdown of the bags.")

 

Whole Foods has gotten ridden of plastic bags, and their paper bags are 100% recycled paper, 40% post-consumer.  That's pretty good, so I guess if you aren't reusing your bag, maybe you should shop there? :)

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Featured Debates
Green Options › Forums › Anything but Green › Featured Debates › Debate of the Day 3: Paper or Plastic?