October 09, 2008
Paper or Plastic? Neither! Reuse!
The energy and other environmental impacts embodied in a plastic grocery
bag is somewhat less than in a paper grocery bag. But paper is accepted
in most recycling programs while the recycling rate for plastic bags is
So, which is better for the environment? Neither! The fact is that the difference
between paper and plastic RECYCLING is small compared with the REUSING bags.
on the Web
reusable cloth bags (see first reference below).
paper and plastic bags several trips.
to say "no, thanks" when you don't need a bag.
a cardboard box or two in your car's trunk and load it directly from
your shopping cart.
at the Library
Living: Reusable bags, 10 years later
By Mark Harris
Environmental News Network
different reusable bags, gives toll-free phone numbers.
By Michael Brower, Ph.D. and Warren Leon, Ph.D.,
The Consumerís Guide to Effective Environmental Choices - Practical
Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists
Pages 132 - 133, Three Rivers Press, New York - 1999
studies of paper versus plastic bags. Bottom line, lots of complexities
but differences in environmental impacts are relatively minor.
The Film and Bag Federation
reuse ideas for plastic bags provided by consumers.
to Glenn Meyer, Pollution Control Specialist, Minnesota Office of Environmental
Assistance, for help with this section. Glenn's motto is: "Whatever you
- "Reuse versus recycling:
A look at grocery bags"
By Robert W. Fenton
Resource Recycling March 1992 pp. 105+
the energy intensity per trip for different types of grocery bags.
The results show the break-even points for when reusable bags are
more energy efficient than single-use bags. A simpler choice --
reusing a bag meant for just one use -- also has a big impact.
- "Resource and Environmental
Profile Analysis of Pelyethylene and Unbleached Paper Grocery Sacks,"
Franklin Associates, July 1990
but ignores reuse.
- "Pushing Paper in a Plastic
by Calmetta Coleman, Wall Street Journal,
2/24/98 (page B1,7)
consumer preference, capacity, cost-per-bag, and handles. Stores
benefit by giving a credit of 5 to 10 cents to entice customers
to reusing bags. Statistic paper bags carried 20% of the nation's
groceries in 1998, down from 95% in 1982.
- Bag it: 'Paper or Plastic?'
We're asked at the grocery store, but what about cloth?
By Tracy Koontz
E Magazine, March/April 1996 (pp. 42-3)
- Bag It: The Grocery Sack
By Karen McNulty
Science World - April 20, 1990, pp. 11-16
- Plastic or Paper: Which
is better for the environment?
By Carol Nuckols
Fort Worth Star-Telegram - December 6, 1997