Paper vs. Plastic Bags

We've all been in the grocery store, and have been asked "Paper or plastic?" Do you remember which you chose? Or, why did you make that particular choice? And, was it an informed decision?
It is a question of environmental impact, and it should be the responsibility of us all to make the most ecologically aware, and sound decision.

Every single day a person walks in or out of a grocery store, not knowing, or caring about the impact that you can have on our planet. It starts with a simple question, paper or plastic? I am here to inform you that there is no correct answer because they both effect our environment dramatically. I am going to inform you about the impact Paper and Plastic have on our environment.
If you asked the question paper or plastic the true answer is there is no solution. The right answer is reusable bags even though one might be a little better than the other they both affect our environment. Even though paper bags can be recycled, and it’s harder for plastic bags to be recycled it still takes 91% more energy to recycle a pound of paper. Either way the recycle rates for both bags are extremely low. The Plastic bag recycle rates are 1 to 3% and paper is 10 to 15%.

Plastic Impacts
Each year across the world some 500 billion plastic bags are used, and only a tiny fraction of them are recycled. Most of them will have a short lifetime with a consumer — they’ll be used for the few minutes it takes to get from the store to home and then they’re thrown away

Plastic is a petroleum product - it comes from oil. As we all know, the oil industry is the cause of worldwide financial and political turmoil. For example, the genocide in Darfur is related to oil and the fight for this valuable resource.

plastic bags also effect the enviorment through landfills. In the landfills wood fibers mix with plastic fibers. When the bag is disposed, wood fibers break down leaving millions of tiny plastic pieces to mix in the earth.

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Paper impacts
Ito make paper bags you must cut down trees, so the more paper bags we consume the more trees we have to cut down. In 1999 14 million trees were cut down to create 10 million paper grocery bags. It also takes 4 times the enrgy to manufacture a paper bag then a plastic bag. Manufacturing paper bags, and cutting down forest to create paper bags contribute to global warming because cutting down trees produce greenhouse gases.

Paper bags are made by heating wood chips in a chemical solution under pressure. These chemicals produce high amounts of air and water pollution. Paper bag production produces 70% more air pollution and 50 times more water pollution than plastic bag production. Millions of gallons of chemicals that are created pour into waterways each year, which also works its way to the food chains.

Paper bags do not degrade or break down at a substantially faster rate than plastic does. In fact, nothing completely degrades in modern landfills because of the lack of water, light, oxygen and other important elements that are necessary for the degradation process to be completed.

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Data
10 to 15% of paper bags are recycled and 1 to 3% of plastic bags are recycled
Americans use over 14 billion plastic bags every year, the equivalent to 12 million barrels of oil.
Paper bags generate 70% more air pollution and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags.
It takes more than 4 times the amount of energy to create a paper bag then a plastic bag
Thw petroluem to make 14 plastic bags could drive a car 1 mile
The Solution
paper and plastic bags consume large amounts of natural resources, and cause a significant amount of pollution, and will probally end up in landfills. Paper and plastic bags are about equall in the damage they cause to the earth so the solution is reusable bags. Reusable bags do not effect the enviorment in any way, they are created by using recycled material. Reusable bags, are light, durable, and can hold up to 40lbs they also last for a really long time.

The next time you are asked, "paper or plastic?" your response should be "paper nor plastic".

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Graphs
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Sources
http://www.greenfeet.net/newsletter/debate.shtml
http://www.fremantle.wa.gov.au/news/resource/plasticbag-turtle-web.jpg
http://www.plasticbageconomics.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=30&Itemid=45
**http://www.reusablebags.com/facts.php?id=7**
http://www.blm.gov/education/00_resources/articles/energy/energy40a.jpg