I have often debated while standing in line at the grocery store: Is paper or plastic better? Either choice creates angst. If I choose paper, I feel like I am aiding the environment by using less plastic. However, if I choose plastic, I feel like I am helping to save a tree by using less paper.
Where is the truth behind the choices? "According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, paper bags generate 70% more air pollutants and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags. What's more, it takes four times as much energy to make a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag, and 91 percent more energy to recycle paper than plastic. On the other hand, paper bags come from a renewable resource (trees) while most plastic bags are made from non-renewable resources (polyethylene, a combination of crude oil and natural gas)." (1)
Since the 1970s, plastic bags have virtually replaced paper bags. "Today 4 out of 5 bags used at the grocer's are plastic. Thankfully, supermarkets have implemented recycling programs* for the proliferating bags." (1)
How can we help this situation?
- Bring your own bags shopping with you so you are not taking more bags home (keep some in your car or truck so you are always prepared)
- Bag your own items so you can conserve on how many bags you use
- If bagging your own items is not an option, ask the person bagging to not double bag
- Ask the bagger to pack heavier; avoid single item bagging.
Explain to the bagger that you are trying to be environmentally conscious and do not want to waste paper or plastic. Tell them you are trying to save a plastic tree! They will probably look at you like you are odd, but they will remember your message!
+ Mix it up. Do not always use the same type of bag
- + Support the stores that do not offer bags (Like Sam's Club and Aldis). They force you to bring your own or use the empty cardboard boxes they have, which helps them to recycle their trash as well.
- + Encourage people to plant trees
- + Recycle the bags in creative ways ( use your paper bags as poultice paper for your horses; use your plastic bags to sweat their legs. Cut out a square and save on Saran Wrap)
1. Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things, Readers Digest Association, Inc. Pleasantville, NY Copyright 2005 pages 243, 262.
*HH alert! Plastic wrapping on wood shavings that many of us use as bedding is not recyclable! Join the discussion to be featured in our next issue. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org