Even with the 5p charge for single use plastic bags going into effect in October the debate over the pros and cons of plastic and paper bags is not one that is likely to end anytime soon.
The Case Against Plastic Bags
- Plastic bags are almost forever. Plastic bags have a lifespan of approximately one thousand years. Proponents of using plastic bags point to the increase in the amount of recycling over the past few years. While more and more people are recycling, the truth is plastic bags just don’t recycle very well. Since the bags are thin, they often become tangled in processes at the refiners and still end in landfill sites.
- Plastic bags are expensive and we pay for them more than once. The first charge occurs when we shop; about 3p to 5p is added to the prices to cover the price of plastic bags. The second charge comes in the dealing with plastic bag waste; this is about three times that amount.
- Plastic bags are bad for the environment. Since they are made from a petroleum product, plastic bags deal a double blow to the environment. Drilling for fossil fuels is not the most environmentally friendly activity.
- Plastic bags are a hazard to animal life. Plastic bags have been found in the remains or fish, ocean mammals, turtles, camels and birds and it is estimated that they are the cause of 100,000 sea creature deaths per year.
The Case for Plastic Bags
- They are easy to store.
- They are lightweight.
- They make it easier to carry purchases.
The Case Against Paper Bags
- Paper bags have a large environmental impact. Just because they are made from a renewable resource doesn’t mean they are environmentally friendly. The process of turning wood into pulp requires a great deal of energy.
- Paper bags also use more energy than plastic ones in reaching their destination.
- Paper bags weigh about seven times as much as plastic, which results in higher fuel costs and higher fuel consumption. The UK’s Environmental Agency has called the overall impact on human health and the environment of paper bags to be “significantly worse” than that of plastic.
The Case for Paper Bags
- Paper bags are easily recyclable. Even when they are left as litter they degrade fairly quickly.
- Paper bags do not present the same dangers as plastic to land and sea-based animals.
The Clear Winner
When it comes to which is the better option, paper or plastic, each is an environmentally unfriendly decision. The best choice is to carry your own re-useable bags. Each one can be used many times over and has a lifespan of about year.