Paper or plastic?
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HowStuffWorks "Which is more environmentally friendly: paper or plastic?"

HowStuffWorks "Which is more environmentally friendly: paper or plastic?" | Paper or plastic? | Scoop.it
People wonder if paper or plastic bags are more environmentally friendly. Get the skinny on whether paper or plastic bags are greener.
Alina Penskaya's insight:

As you wrap­ up your weekly grocery shopping and get in line at the supermarket, it's time for yet another difficult choice. The cashier mechanically spouts at you, "Paper or plastic?" referring to what kind of bag you'd prefer. For some people, it's a stressful decision. Convenience is pulling you toward plastic, but a nagging green conscience might automatically pull you toward pa­per. However, it's raining, and if your paper bags break, it could ruin your purchases. On the other hand, is it selfish to put immediate convenience over the thousands of years it might take for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill? But, what a minute -- aren't we encouraged to save the trees and avoid overusing paper?

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Paper or plastic — what’s the greener choice?

Paper or plastic — what’s the greener choice? | Paper or plastic? | Scoop.it
Would you like paper or plastic? It's the question food shoppers are asked every day — a simple choice that even environmentally conscious shoppers find confusing. NBC's Anne Thompson reports.
Alina Penskaya's insight:

Consumers find themselves between a rock and a hard place when it comes to paper or plastic. To find out what is best to do in the grocery store, we turned to Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

 

"It depends on where you live," he says.

 

Plastic bags threaten wildlife along the coasts, so if that's where you call home, Hershkowitz says the choice should be paper. In the heartland, he says it's plastic.


"I just assumed paper was the better choice — more environmentally friendly choice," our guilty shopper says.

 

But people don't realize how big a footprint the paper industry has.

Here's how paper and plastic stack up side by side:

To make all the bags we use each year, it takes 14 million trees for paper and 12 million barrels of oil for plastic. The production of paper bags creates 70 percent more air pollution than plastic, but plastic bags create four times the solid waste — enough to fill the Empire State Building two and a half times. And they can last up to a thousand years.

 

Plastic, because it's cheaper to produce, is the overwhelming choice of grocery stores across the nation — the average family of four uses almost 1,500 of these a year. San Francisco is limiting consumers' freedom of choice, allowing only biodegradable plastic bags, which break down over months rather than hundreds of years.

 

For both types of bags, the environmentalist mantra is the same — reuse and recycle. But the best choice, they say, is cloth or canvas, and BYOB — bring your own bags.

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