Tuesday, May 15, 2007

INTERESTING FACT: the Paper or Plastic dilemma

I like to do my bit in keeping with the "greener" philosophy. I believe in recycling and the importance of Auto Emissions control, not because I buy into the Global Warming "we're going to fry in a century", hysteria, but because I believe in not trashing or polluting our earth.

So, I don't know about you, but every time I'm faced with the question: "paper or plastic?" (in those supermarkets that actually offer the choice) I panic, momentarily, trying to remember which is supposed to be the more 'eco-friendly' choice. I usually settle for plastic, because I seem to remember that plastic is the 'greener choice', but apparently I'm wrong.

So, paper or plastic, which is it? Actually, it depends on where you live! According to Allen Hershkowitz, of the Natural Resources Defense Council:
Plastic bags threaten wildlife along the coasts, so if that's where you call home, Hershkowitz says the choice should be paper. In the heartland, he says it's plastic.
There are pros and cons to both:
--Paper bags generate 70 percent more air pollutants and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags
--It takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag.

--Paper takes up a lot more landfill space: 2,000 plastic bags weigh 30 pounds, 2,000 paper bags weigh 280 pounds.
As for plastic:
--Plastics do NOT biodegrade. Rather, they photodegrade, a process in which sunlight breaks down plastic into smaller and smaller pieces.
--It can take up to 1,000 years for a high-density polyethylene plastic bag to break down in the environment.
--Plastic bags are on the top 10 list of most common trash items along the American coastline (both on land and in the water).
So what's the solution? Canvas or cloth bags are the greenest option, but choose according to where you live, and try to re-use and recycle whichever one you do choose.


Panhandle Poet said...

I always go plastic simply because we reuse the bags as can liners for small trash cans. I applaud your awareness of the issue and the necessity of lessening our impact on the environment. There's got to be a better way. I hope there will someday be a fully recyclable (not down-cyclable) product that we can use. We need to totally re-think our manufacturing processes with re-cyclability in mind from the very creation of all new products. The engineers and inventors of the future have tremendous opportunity in this area.

WomanHonorThyself said...

ok..I'll keep my platform shoes and tie die t post actually..and re-cycling is important.:)

PaulaBXX said...

Hey, I had no idea about theese facts, so thanks for that. Here in the UK, we do not even get the paper bag option. Canvas bags have JUST started to be sold in the supermarkets £5, but have become the 'thing to have', as a particular designer created the concept etc, so they are selling on eBay at £200. Apparently, when you buy one in store, they then put it into a plastic bag, for you to take home! Weird!
I too use the plastic ones in the bin at home! but would have blindly assumed (doh!) that paper ones were much more eco-friendly. See, I have something new to muse over everytime I pass by your pages -Thnx!

Incognito said...

PANHANDLE: I do the same thing... actually use them for kitchen garbage, as well. That's a form of recycling. Actually, I never knew until I saw something about it in the news. I think the whole idea of recycling is slowly becoming of import. They are building houses that utilize all recycled products. Fascinating what they are using. Hopefully it will become the norm,

WHT: :-) Dang, girl, you still have yours. Bet you could fetch a fortune for them on EBAY. Wish I'd kept mine.

PAULA: I didn't either, till now. :-) The canvas bags are sold in the health food stores, but not really anywhere else. It does make sense. I think the Brits have always been far more progressive when it comes to things like that.
200pounds. Amazing!

Papa J said...

Actually, its all about the economics.

It Italy you paid the equivalance of 5 cents back in the early 90s for every grocery bag they used to package your groceries. As a consequence, people used the canvas bags. Because the money added up really quickly if you didn't.

I say a simple penny a bag tax by the government (to be used for coastal cleanup maybe) would be an adequate prod for the average shopper to switch to canvas.

Incognito said...

That's a great idea. Actually some of the healthfood stores will rebate you a nickel or a penny (can't remember which) if you bring your own bags. I just always forget, and not sure if they do it at any of the ones here. This was back in L.A. ages ago.

Billy T. Johnson said...

There is a store near my home called Sav-a-Lot. They have lower prices than the other chain stores and part of the reason is that they don't provide a bag for your groceries. You can purchase a heavy-duty, large plastic bag for an extra ten cents, but they keep all their used stock boxes piled at the end of the lanes for the customer to use for free. Yes, it's a little hokey to have a bunch of banana boxes (or whatever) piled up at the end of your shopping lane (and to carry your groceries home in it!), but it definitely is a highly effective way to lower prices and reduce plastic bag usage. Almost every person I see uses the boxes...including me.

Incognito said...

Hey Billy, I've seen those stores. Costco also uses old boxes. It's a great idea. And they're recyclable, when done, if you break them down.