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Paper Bags Vs Plastic Bags, Which Is Better?

in Environment by

Since the state of New York banned single-use plastic bags from all retail stores, it’s time to visit everyone’s favorite question – paper bags or plastic bags?

The answer to this question is far more complicated than anyone could imagine. While everyone agrees that plastic takes decades to decompose, which can become a nasty problem in the future, does everyone agree with the fact that paper requires so much energy and greenhouse gas emissions to produce?

As you can see, neither are perfect for the environment, but which is better? In this article, we are going to try and answer that question.

Paper Bags

Img Source: easyprint.ws

We mentioned how paper bags produce more greenhouse gas emissions during production, but does that make them bad? Well, no but they are not perfect eighter.  From a global warming point of view, paper bags don’t help themselves much. On the question “how paper bags are made” we can safely say that they are made from trees, which are a reusable resource, but trees are getting chopped down at an enormous rate that it seems like a bad choice. Paper bags require more energy to produce, and they are more expensive to produce than plastic.

Paper bag making machines are the types of machines that produce paper bags. But as one study from Britain’s Environment Agency found, paper bags need to be reused at least three times if we want to match the environmental impact compared to the production process. While paper bags are easily reusable, many people don’t and they just throw them out, which is a huge mistake. The whole idea of paper bags is to be more reusable than plastic bags.

Plastic Bags

Img Source: esperanceexpress.com.au

Plastic bags are super effective for what they do, but the biggest issue with them is litter. American shoppers use more than 100 billion lightweight polyethylene plastic bags each year, and we can safely say that only a very small percentage of those are recycled. The reason why plastic bags aren’t recycled is that they clog up recycling machines. So what do we do with them? We throw them in landfills waiting to decompose for thousands of years.

However, this is still not the major reason why the world hates plastic bags. The reason why people hate plastic bags is that people don’t dispose of them properly, according to Ketegroup. You can find plastic bags around any street corner in the US, just sitting there for no reason, clogging up waterways and threatening wildlife.

Woven Bags

Multiple studies have been conducted on the topic of woven bags as a substitute for both plastic and paper. Most studies found out that woven, bags are sustainable only if people reuse them and use them frequently.

Img Source: debenhams.com

These bags are made in woven bag making machines, and they cost nothing to produce. Both woven and non-woven bags are made from recycled plastic. However, some are made from cotton, which is very cost-ineffective to produce. Cotton takes time to grow, land, fertilizer, pesticides, which all play their role in the environment. So to conclude on woven bags; if you are going to reuse them, frequently use them, and if you’re going to produce them from recycled plastic bags, then woven bags should be used as a substitute to both plastic and paper.



Peter is a freelance writer with more than eight years of experience covering topics in politics. He was one of the guys that were here when the foreignpolicyi.org started.

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