Plastic vs. Paper Bags



Paper or plastic? That is the question. But either one you choose has a negative impact on the environment.

Here are some facts about paper and plastic shopping bags:

In the U.S. 40 billion grocery bags are used each year; 30 billion are plastic, 10 billion are paper. Worldwide, between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags are consumed annually.

A family of four uses five to ten plastic or paper grocery bags per week. That equals between 600 and 1,200 bags per shopper each year.

Because plastic bags are lighter than paper bags, it takes four or five bags to hold the same amount of groceries as one standard size paper bag.

Plastic bags are expected to take between 20 and 1000 years to break down in the environment and in the process release toxins into the water and soil, whereas in the open environment paper bags take about a month to decompose.

Plastic bags have been seen as far north as the Arctic Ocean, as far south as the southern end of South America, and one expert predicts that plastic bags will wash up on Antarctica within ten years.

Over 100,000 birds, whales, seals, turtles and other wildlife worldwide are killed by plastic garbage every year.

Plastic bags are the second-leading cause of suffocation among babies.

It requires 20 to 40 percent less energy to manufacture two plastic bags than to create one paper bag.

Paper bags are made from trees, a renewable resource while plastic bags are manufactured from petroleum. It requires 14 million trees a year to produce 10 billion bags or 12 million barrels of oil to make 100 million plastic bags annually.

Some paper bags are made from virgin forest while others are made from recycled paper. Plastic bags are made from virgin petroleum.

Only 3 percent of plastic bags, or 20% of paper bags produced in America are recycled. The majority of both plastic and paper bags end up in landfills, others will end up disfiguring the environment.

Both the manufacturing of plastic or paper bags pollutes water and air with toxic chemicals which pour into the nations waterways and find their way through the food chain.

Neither paper or plastic bags decompose in landfills because of the lack of water, light and oxygen.

The solution? Canvas and cloth bags. While on the increase, studies show that less than one percent of Americans currently bring cloth or canvas bags to the grocery store. Become a trend setter and start showing your care of the environment by carrying your own canvas bag.

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Author: Marilyn Pokorney
Freelance writer of science, nature, animals and the environment.
Also loves crafts, gardening, and reading.
Email: Current address on website