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Question of the Week: What do you use: paper, plastic, or reusable bags?

2008 July 21

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Paper or plastic? We take shopping bags for granted, especially at the grocery store, and it’s easy to fill up several bags per trip. Both paper and plastic bags use resources, multiplied by the billions of bags used annually worldwide. You can reuse and recycle both paper and plastic types, which delays their being thrown away, or you can reduce waste with permanent bags.

What do you use: paper, plastic, or reusable bags?


En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

¿Papel o plástico? Damos por sentado las bolsas al momento de comprar, especialmente en el supermercado, y es fácil llenar varias bolsas en cada compra. Tanto las bolsas de papel como las de plástico utilizan recursos, multiplicados por miles de millones de bolsas usadas anualmente a nivel mundial. Usted puede reutilizar o reciclar tanto las de papel como las de plástico, lo cual puede aplazar el tener que disponer de ellas. O también puede reducir los desechos con bolsas permanentes.

¿Cuáles utiliza: bolsas de papel, plástico o reutilizables?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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186 Responses leave one →
  1. Marge Fitzgerald permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I try very hard to bring my store bought heavy duty bags into the supermarket, but often forget. The reminder stickers one responder mentioned is a great idea. I have recently read, however, that bacteria from some foods may contaminate the bags. I always use an extra plastic bag for meats. But perhaps with the vegetable/salmonella situation, we should make sure all veggies are also in separate plastic bags. I try to bring a soft cooler for meats and frozen foods.

  2. Marc permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I use plastic, but we recycle them, or use them for other things like lunch bags etc. We get the life out of them and then recycle.

  3. Maria permalink
    July 28, 2008

    I have several permanent bags in my car. The problem is, I forget to take them into the store with me. Now I put them on the front seat of the car. The plastic bags are convenient for many other household uses though, like lining garbage cans, holding dirty clothes when travelling.

  4. Linda permalink
    July 28, 2008

    My husband and I use the complimentary cloth bags for purchases in craft stores, book stores, farmers markets, and some box retail stores. However, at the grocery store, we accept the plastic bags. These are then use as trash bags in our home thus saving us dollars on purchasing trash bags. These same plastic bags are given to a local 4-H program to use in its annual consignment sale.

  5. Ira Charles permalink
    July 28, 2008

    In addition to the canvas bag, I always bring two or three coolers which I fill with chilled or frozen items. ***ic**

  6. Kyle permalink
    July 29, 2008

    I use plastic bags with the intention to reuse and recycle them. They are handy, free and great for reusing. And, if I have leftovers I simply take them back with me to the grocery store to either reuse or recycle.

    It’s very simple and green at the same time.


  7. M Most permalink
    July 31, 2008

    CARDBOARD BOXES! In NYC, I either have my shopping cart or the car. Cardboard boxes stack easily in the rolling cart, and are easier to manage than bags, to put in and take out of the trunk, and lugging up my stoop. Plus, of course, they’re often reusable, and 100% recyclable.

  8. maria permalink
    August 5, 2008

    fabric bags are the best answer. Take 3 big beach size bags and make a difference. say no to plastic or paper bags!

  9. john permalink
    August 17, 2008

    I don’t see how people believe what bag we use has any impact. Upon emptying the bag and removing the products from their package you then have a huge pile of packaging material, instant trash. The packaging’s only purpose is to entice people into buying what they otherwise wouldn’t, it can’t serve a second life like a bag does. Take Christmas for example, after children open their gifts the pile of trash is enormous, can we really offset that by not using a plastic bag to bring it home? This reusable bag thing was created to sell people bags, to sucker the naive into spending their money. People just want to believe that by not using plastic bags they are helping save the world as if it could take so little effort. If someone was truly interested in the environment they could force stores to remodel instead of bulldoze old stores or use plain simple packaging instead of wasteful product displaying packages. Or how about require manufactures to make quality products that have a decent lifespan, these China products we are forced to buy end up in the landfill at break-neck speeds.

  10. Kit permalink
    August 30, 2008


    I had the same problem remembering, so I invented a reusable bag I couldn’t forget. It folds into a tiny pocket, so you can keep several in your purse. I liked it so much, I started a company and sell them online.

    Keep up the good work!

  11. Carolyn B (Goodyear, AZ) permalink
    September 3, 2008

    I use reuseable bags I got two years ago.

  12. Terri permalink
    September 17, 2008

    I also have that problem. When ever I forget my reusable bags in the car I just ask for my items to be returned to the cart. I then load my own bags at the car. A sticker is a great idea. Thanks

  13. George farmer permalink
    September 21, 2008

    As a forester tend to go for paper to help the industry and tress are renewable, oil is now. If you need 6-8 bags how do you go with cloth?

  14. Alex S permalink
    October 16, 2008

    Definitely reusable bags. I’ve read other messages here, saying it doesn’t make a huge difference in our environment to eliminate plastic or paper bags but it really does. It’s not about changing our entire life style and going green on eveything we do, it’s about the little things. Our population has increased drastically in the last 30 years, imagine all the waste! Using reusable bags is not going to change the world but it’s a simple thing that each person can do. So why not do it! All it takes is to make it a habit. If every person did just a little each day toward the conservation of our environment, don’t you think we can make an impact!
    Also, for those who haven’t tried reusable bags, they are very convenient. They hold a ton more stuff in them, and don’t hurt the hands when you’re carrying heavy items.

  15. evden eve nakliyat permalink
    November 8, 2008

    anyway i sont like paper :)

  16. Annette permalink
    November 21, 2008


    GREAT IDEA!! I’m gonna use that one! I forget my reusable bags 50% of the time. LOL


  17. Jodi permalink
    December 8, 2008

    I use canvas bags. If I just have one or two items I will drop them in my purse if they fit, if not I will just carry them. If I forget my bags and can’t carry my purchase without a bag I (cringe) use paper because they fit more per bag, so I can usually get away with just one. Plus, as I learned from Paula Deen-they make a great mat for drying fried foods when cooking, which then also saves many paper towels!

  18. ANONYMOUS permalink
    February 5, 2009

    Reusable bags.

  19. I'm Hot permalink
    February 9, 2009

    Hey, I’m doing a project and I was wondering how you calculated how many plastic bags are equal to how many canvas bags you use?

  20. UK Essays permalink
    February 18, 2009

    No doubt very helpful for the readers! Most of the posts in the blog sparks some great knowledge… Thanks for the information!

  21. Adrienne permalink
    April 1, 2009

    I am also doing a project for school and can use any info available.


  22. guillermo gual permalink
    July 29, 2009


  23. ChemDaddy permalink
    February 26, 2010

    I realize your post was quite a while ago so this information may no longer be relevant.

    I think the calculation was as follows:

    Bill said he uses about 6 bags per week, there’s 52 weeks in a year, and he says they have been using the canvas bags for 15 years.

    That’s 6 x 52 x 15 = 4680.

  24. Christmas Gift Ideas permalink
    December 6, 2010

    I think that people should try and use reusable bags as much as possible, if you consider how many plastic or paper bags could be used just for the holidays such as at Christmas, the amount of Christmas gifts people buy this year could easily make the number of bags produced into the billions.

  25. evden eve nakliyat permalink
    November 23, 2012

    I think this is a really good site. You definately have a fabulous grasp of the subject matter and explain it great.

  26. evden eve nakliyat permalink
    November 23, 2012

    I think this is a really good site. You definately have a fabulous grasp of the subject matter and explain it great.

  27. Gucci fsession permalink
    February 19, 2014

    There is some validity but I will take hold judgement until I look into it further.Thank you for sharing excellent informations.

  28. Paper Plastic Bags permalink
    June 19, 2014

    You said right every person should use the paper plastic reusable bag. Thanks to share it.

  29. permalink
    October 10, 2014

    reusable bags. :)

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