Are paper bags that much better for environment?

Posted by Lisa on December 15, 2022
Table of Contents

    Introduction

    When it comes to the environment, we've all been told that plastic bags are bad. You know this. You've heard the statistics about how many billions of plastic bags wind up in landfills each year or how much energy and natural resources go into making them. And yet, you probably still have a drawer full of plastic grocery bags somewhere at home (I do).

    Why? Well, one reason is that paper bags aren't necessarily better for the environment than plastic ones — no matter what you may have heard in school science class when you were growing up. And another reason might be because going from plastic to paper doesn't mean your impact on the environment has magically disappeared; it just means that those extra pounds of plastic won't end up buried underground forever."

    There's no doubt plastic bags are a blight on the environment.

    There’s no doubt plastic bags are a blight on the environment. They are not biodegradable, they're made from petroleum and they don't break down in landfills. That's why many cities have implemented bans on them as part of their efforts to cut down on pollution. But paper bags aren't necessarily better for the planet or your wallet.

    The environmental impact of each type of bag depends on how long it takes to decompose and how much energy was used in production and transport. In some cases, paper can take up more space than its plastic counterpart: The Washington Post reports that only 10% of all U.S.-made paper goes into packaging; disposable shopping bags make up just 0.5% of that amount. Even if they do get recycled (which most people don’t), it takes more than five times as much energy to produce new paper products from recycled materials as it does from virgin pulpwood—that means you could save more carbon dioxide emissions by reusing your old shopping bag!

    Plastic bags don't biodegrade, but that doesn't mean they don't break down.

    You might think that plastic bags don't biodegrade, but this isn't true. They do break down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic, but they never really go away—which is the problem with biodegradable plastics. It's like those bacteria that eat oil spills in the ocean—they break down the oil into tiny particles which are then released back into the environment, where they get absorbed by animals or humans who eat them unknowingly as part of their diet.

    If you're concerned about your health and/or environmental impact, it's best to avoid using any kind of disposable item at all—including paper bags (and even reusable ones).

    Paper bags can be reused.

    In addition to being reusable and recyclable, paper bags can also be reused in the same way you would reuse plastic bags. Some ideas include using them as storage or for composting or even as bin liners.

    Plastic bag bans have unintended consequences for the environment.

    A plastic bag ban in Massachusetts was implemented to reduce the number of plastic bags in landfills, the ocean and the environment.

    The ban had no effect on reducing the number of plastic bags in landfills.

    You still need to avoid paper bags if you want to help the environment.

    Still, it's important to keep in mind that paper bags are not as environmentally friendly as you might think. For starters, there's a carbon footprint associated with producing paper bags that plastic doesn't have.

    Even if they're recycled (which they can be), they'll take up more space in your recycling bin than plastic bags would—and since most people don't reuse them but instead throw them away or recycle them, you're not doing yourself any favors by opting for a paper bag over its plastic counterpart.

    Plastic is also much easier to transport and store than an unwieldy clump of folded-up newspaper. Paper products can get wet and soggy quickly; when left out on a porch or balcony in the rain, they'll disintegrate into mush after just a few hours. Plastic won't do this unless it's left out for several days straight! Plastic does require some energy to produce initially but overall has less environmental impact due to its durability and ability to withstand abuse without breaking down into smaller pieces that have even more of an impact on our planet than larger ones do (not to mention how difficult it is  to clean up).

    While going from plastic to paper is a step in the right direction, there are many other steps we could take that would be even more impactful.

    While going from plastic to paper is a step in the right direction, there are many other steps we could take that would be even more impactful. For example, if you have a lot of plastic bags and want to recycle them, it's much easier than getting rid of all your old newspapers. This is because most cities have curbside recycling programs where they will collect recyclables from your curb once a week or so. If you don't have one of these programs in your area, then you can take advantage of drop boxes located at grocery stores or other places with large amounts of foot traffic (like malls).

    Plastic bags are also better for the environment because they can be reused as trash bags and storage containers around the house instead of being thrown away after just one use like paper grocery bags usually are. Another reason why reusing plastic bags is better than using paper ones is because when consumers reuse their own grocery store's reusable bags instead buying new ones every time they go shopping at the store (even if those new ones were made from recycled materials), this reduces waste production by requiring less raw material inputs used during manufacturing processes which ultimately means less energy consumption required during these processes as well

    Conclusion

    So, paper vs. plastic? The short answer is that neither one is as good for the environment as you might think. You can use paper bags instead of plastic ones, but only if you recycle them after use and don't use them at all unless absolutely necessary. If you really want to help the environment, we recommend sticking with reusable canvas or cotton bags when grocery shopping or carrying groceries home from the store.

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