Friday, April 9, 2010

Paper, plastic or neither?

Column: Ask Ida

Dear Ida B. Green,

I understand there are just as many problems with paper bags as with plastic.  What is the most responsible thing to be using?




Dear Up,

The statistics for both paper and plastic are pretty depressing and make reusable bags look better all the time. It may surprise you to hear that the production of paper bags causes more air and water pollution (70 percent and 50 percent more, respectively) than plastic bags and more than four times as much energy to manufacture.

This would make the plastic bag look pretty darn good except for some serious downsides. The U.S. consumes an estimated 12 million barrels of oil to produce 100 billion plastic bags each year. Plastic bags don't biodegrade, they photo-degrade, breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits, contaminating soil and waterways. Plastic, the largest source of ocean litter, kills at least 1 million sea birds and 100,000 mammals each year.

While free, single-use carryout bags are a convenient addiction, both paper and plastic bags gobble up natural resources while polluting our environment.

Your best choice overall is to collect a good set of reusable bags. Cloth, string or durable, woven plastic bags can hold from 25-40 pounds of goods and last for years. Most can be machine-washed and can be kept in your car, purse or backpack for your constant convenience.

Easy to be Green,


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