Queen Composter thought the debate on plastic versus paper was over, but now she's not sure.
After a few days of this I did a quick google search to discover that there is a ban on plastic shopping bags on the island. My initial reaction was yes! But then I remembered that I saw everyone walking out of stores with paper bags, not reusable bags. When I remarked on this, my oldest daughter commented that paper bags are probably better than plastic.
It may have been due to being spring break and the area was full of tourists who (unlike me) do not travel with their reusable shopping bags, so their only choice was to use paper bags. However, this is not the full story because we also went shopping in less touristy areas and there was still a predominance of paper bags.
This did not sit right with me. After all, as a reasonably environmentally aware person, I knew that the best choice should always be to use reusable shopping bags, rather than having to chose between paper or plastic bags.
|I love the reuseable bags I purchased years ago, and they|
fold up small enough to fit in any bag or purse so I always
have one or two on hand when needed, even on vacation.
This is what we know about plastic shopping bags:
- made from non-renewable resource
- carbon footprint in their production and recycling
- not recyclable in curb side pickups
- harmful to wildlife, who may get tangled in or choked by the bags, or who may ingest them
- take hundreds, if not thousands of years to breakdown in landfills
However, I learned that paper shopping bags are no better than plastic, and in some cases may be worse than plastic:
- cannot be made from recycled paper because of durability (although this may be changing as technology improves recycled paper products)
- is often is made from virgin wood, which is leading to clear cutting, habitat loss and deforestation (which is a huge problem in my home province)
- consumes huge amounts of energy and water in both their production and recycling (more than plastic bags)
- cannot be easily reused because they tear easily (and in fact in many cases I saw doubling of paper bags in the store)
- does not break down as easily as one would think in landfills
|Many of the paper bags I saw being used|
were doubled up, as this is (see the two
handles) because they tear so easily, especially
when they get wet.
I also found some interesting infographics comparing plastic bag use and reuseable shopping bags (single use, versus multiple use) here.
The plastic bag ban started to feel like environmental lip service and greenwashing. People get to pat themselves on the back that they are doing something for the environment, but it is just replacing one problem for another.
So I ask readers who may live in areas with plastic bag bans: do you feel the ban encourages more people to use reusable shopping bags? Or is paper making a comeback?