Are paper bags more expensive than plastic?

Posted by Lisa on December 15, 2022
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    In the past few years, the use of disposable plastic bags has come under fire for its huge negative impact on the environment. Shoppers have been encouraged to switch to reusable bags in order to reduce their carbon footprint and save money in the long run -- but there's a catch: paper bags cost more per unit than plastic ones do. So which is better?

    The cost of paper grocery bags varies based on a variety of factors.

    The cost of paper grocery bags is a simple question that’s actually quite complex. A lot of factors affect the price, including:

    • The type of paper used (waste or recycled)
    • How many bags you buy at once
    • Whether the bag is being reused by you or someone else

    Let's break these down.

    Plastic bags are cheaper than paper bags, but only if they're reused often enough.

    Paper bags are more expensive than plastic bags, but if they're reused often enough, they can be a better value. Plastic bags cost less to produce than paper bags do, so it's easy to see why they're cheaper. However, if you use the bag only once and then throw it away, you'll end up spending more money overall because of the cost of your bag.

    Paper bags have higher production costs than plastic ones do: for example, manufacturing a paper grocery bag requires more resources and energy than making a plastic grocery bag does (including its raw materials). On the other hand, when compared to reusable mesh or cotton mesh shopping totes that people typically use as replacements for disposable plastic or paper shopping bags at some stores (such as Whole Foods Markets), paper grocery sacks are still much cheaper over time in terms of both storage space requirements and overall costs associated with purchasing new ones each year.[3]

    Paper bags have their own issues with cost -- namely, that they require more resources to make.

    Paper bags have their own issues with cost -- namely, that they require more resources to make.

    Paper bags are made from trees, which require a lot of energy to grow and harvest. There's also the issue of transporting those trees from their source (such as the forests) to factories where they're turned into bag materials for shipment. This transportation process can take up a lot of fuel, resulting in higher costs for paper bag production than plastic bag production.

    Finally, once paper bags become trash after use and are sent off for recycling or disposal via landfills or incineration centers, they require even more energy to process than plastic bags do!

    Paper bag costs don't take into account the environmental issues associated with both types of bag.

    Both paper and plastic bags are made from natural resources, but the environmental impact of their creation is quite different.

    Paper bags:

    • Are made from trees. When you think about it, this is a very obvious point; paper is derived from wood, which comes from trees—but it's worth remembering that we collectively use an immense amount of wood every year for purposes other than making bags (think furniture and construction materials) as well as for paper production itself.
    • Are recyclable in some areas worldwide (though not all). This means that if you live somewhere where your local waste management company accepts recycling at its facilities, then you can recycle your used paper bags there instead of throwing them away or sending them to landfill sites.

    Plastic bags:

    • Are made from oil or natural gas byproducts. The reason why the plastic bag industry has such a bad reputation with environmentalists is because those plastics don't biodegrade like other types of plastics do; they break down into smaller pieces over time but never fully disappear into nature again because they're too small to be seen by even our most powerful microscopes! This means that if you throw away your plastic shopping bags after using them once or twice only (as most people do), then they'll be around forever unless someone finds something better than we currently do now when disposing unwanted waste material like these kinds of products."

    Reusable cloth or canvas bags can help you reduce the cost and environmental impact of shopping.

    You can reduce the cost and environmental impact of shopping bags by using reusable cloth or canvas bags instead of disposable plastic or paper ones.

    These types of bags are typically more expensive than plastic, but they have a much longer life span, so over time you’ll save money on replacement costs. They also take up less space in your car if you drive a lot for work. This is because you only need to carry one bag with everything you need for that day!

    If there’s a store near where you live that sells reusable bags (like Whole Foods), it might be worth checking out what they offer before making any decisions about which type will work best for your situation. Be sure to keep those paper receipts as proof that these items qualify as tax deductions when filing next year!


    At the end of the day, both paper and plastic bags have their pros and cons. You can reduce your environmental impact by choosing reusable cloth or canvas shopping bags instead of disposable ones, but they may be more expensive in the short-term. If you’re looking at cost alone, there’s no clear winner between paper and plastic in terms of price per pound. If you want to minimize your carbon footprint while paying less money overall—and who doesn’t?—take a look at our roundup of the best reusable grocery bags on Amazon!

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