Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Answer the Right Question

Paper or Plastic? Every time you check out, you hear the question. But is it the right one? My answer is a resounding NO! "Durable or Disposable?" That is the question! The paper bag and plastic bag industries are diverting your attention from the real question with their debates whether plastic or paper is better. Each has good-sounding arguments for using their product. Their common salve is that they can be recycled. And they can even be reused. So they say. It is a matter of degree. The real way to reduce is to use durable bags in place of disposable. You can find durable bags on the internet, local stores, or help support this site by ordering our logo bags. Disposable bags consumed this year: Five and Dime Five shopping bags will last over three years of weekly use and save me from using more than 500 plastic or paper bags each and every year. Someone refuted me by saying they would need more than a mere five bags for a shopping trip. My answer, buy ten bags then. Maybe you will keep 1,000 bags from being used over the next year by doing so. Another comment I have gotten is, "Why would someone pay $10 for a single shopping bag when the store hands out disposable bags for free?" My answer is that you have to ask yourself how free those bags turn out being in the full accounting. If we are killing wildlife, adding unnecessary greenhouse gasses and filling landfills with materials that will not break down even over a hundred years, is that really free? How much does that cost us? Over 1.2 Billion Dollars of plastic grocery bags for one year in the U.S. Do the interactive calculator on Paper vs Plastic at MSNBC.com and you will find that if every American family reduced the number of plastic bags by 10 a week, we would save over 12 million barrels of oil. Let's see...free bags...12 million barrels of oil at over $100 per barrel. How free are those free grocery bags??? Would that be about $1.2 billion dollars a year to produce the bags? Not to mention the clean up when they hit our environment. Responsible Use The hierarchy of responsible use is 1. Reduce 2. Reuse 3. Recycle. Everyone always thinks of recycling as the first answer when that is really the last step you should take. First, see how you can reduce your consumable products. Then see how many items you can reuse and reuse them until they cannot be used again. THEN recycle your heart out. Continuing to use petroleum products to produce plastic bags to lug our groceries home is just plain wasteful. Paper bags are not any better on the environment. Just shipping the paper bags to consumers uses a vast amount of carbon fuels and produces a frightening amount of greenhouse gasses. Durable cloth bags are the most eco-responsible choice. What do you think? Paper vs Plastic is just the beginning of this question. What are your thoughts on the use of paper and plastic bags? How many bags of either kind do you use every week? Do you recycle your shopping bags or pitch them in the trash? Have you considered purchasing a reusable shopping bag to take to the grocery store?

Read the Point/Counterpoint and then add your comments to the blog to let us know how you are using shopping bags and what you think of this growing national debate.

POINT: Are Shopping Bags Sacking Our Environment? COUNTERPOINT: Myths & Facts about Grocery Bags

For more on this topic: the plastic bag debate.

Buzz it up


darrenholtz said...

I agree that the use of plastic bags has gotten out of hand. I don’t think much change will happen until consumers get some immediate benefit from using reusable bags. At $10 a bag, the average shopper will need 6 bags. That’s $60 dollars for something you get for free from the store. Maybe if the stores started offering special checkout lanes for shopper with their own bags.

Will said...

There is already one store where plastic bags are not such a big issue: ALDI. They do not provide bags, so you can either buy a bag, or you are welcome to use the boxes that they receive their products in. So other alternative is cardboard boxes, which can be recycled when they are no longer useful for carrying things.

T said...

I try to re-use my plastic bags, usually as trash bags. I also give some to our daycare to re-use. If I have extras after that, I give them to my mom, who will recycle them. I always forget to bring them with me to the store. I have thought about purchasing reusable bags but agree with Darren that it is cost-prohibitive. It would also be nice if the bags were available when you checked out, I would probably buy one or two at a time. I do have to add that I avoid plastic bags when I can, like telling the sacker I don't need certain items in a bag.

Murali said...

Extent to which plastic bags degrade don't keep up with their rate of disposal. Collosal mounds of garbage in our landfills and oceans is already impacting our food chain and our environment. Sustainable use of plastics is imperative and prudent with more reliance on bio-degradable alternatives.

Fabiola said...

We probably shouldn't put a price tag on helping our planet Earth. I would be up to use my own bag and recycle all the plastic bags I have at home. Last time I went to the store, I did ask for paper bags and I was surprise to see that all my groceries that usually will take about 6 plastic bags, only used 2 paper bags :).

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