In the Paper or Plastic Argument Plastic Wins

29 May 2012

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There has been a lot of publicity regarding plastic bags lately while cities and town consider banning their use. But before you decide or jump on the band wagon, do your research.
Paper or plastic, which is the right choice?

While environmentalists, bag manufacturers and consumers try to make the right decisions about paper or plastic for our environment, it is important to weigh all the facts.

True, plastic bags end up in landfills, or on roadsides, or in lakes and streams, where they are not only an eyesore, they have a drastic effect on our ecosystem.

But after doing the research, manufacturers and garbage experts can agree that overall, plastic is the better choice.

While paper bags are easier to recycle, they weigh 10 times as much. Why does this matter? They use more energy and cause more waste in the process of manufacturing and transporting.

During the manufacturing process, paper bags use almost three times as much energy as plastic bags.  Unfortunately, we don’t hear too much about that when environmentalists are trying to convince us to reduce our use of plastic.

What is better, paper or plastic?
Talking to a neutral party, Bill Rathje, a garbologist at the Archaeology Center of Stanford University. He says that the answer is very simple and very straightforward.

Rathje says that in a dry landfill, paper bags don't degrade any faster than plastic bags. Over 40 years, in a normal, well-run landfill, paper bags do not biodegrade any faster than plastic.

Also, paper is bulkier and thicker than plastic, therefore paper takes up more landfill space as well.

Landfills are closing down because they're full. From that perspective, plastic bags are much better than paper.

The manufacturing costs for paper bags are much more expensive than plastic too.  Compared to plastic, paper is energy-intensive.

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