paper bags

Plastics – Still the Future?

(EPA Photo/Kasia Broussalian)

By Adam Medoff

No, I don’t need a bag. Despite what cashiers think about my physique and general athletic capabilities, I swear I can carry my bagel and coffee the five blocks from the deli to my office. I don’t mean to put myself on the environmental pedestal (which happens to be located in an old growth Redwood tree and run by Rachel Carson and Julia “Butterfly” Hill…fyi). Plenty of non-eco-heroes decline plastic bags at checkouts every day. But should they even have the choice? In my hometown, San Francisco, we banned plastic bags back in 2007 and I cannot remember anyone complaining about our grave loss or reminiscing about the good ol’ days when plastic bags lined our landfills and beaches.

It’s fine, you say. Plastic bags are recyclable! Plus, even if they’re thrown out, they just go to a landfill. No big deal (though to be honest, if you are reading this blog and got the environmental pedestal joke, you probably don’t think it’s fine and at least think it’s a big-ish deal. But just play along for argument’s sake). Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case. Environmental issues constantly provide the most extraordinary examples of “ignorance is bliss,” and plastic bags are no exception. More

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Paper or Plastic?

One day in my Global Environmental Issues class, a professor showed us a video on the floating island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, commonly called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I never knew the trouble that the convenient plastic bag could cause. On that day I decided to make a change in my life to reduce my contribution to the garbage patch and my carbon footprint in general. I wanted to do something productive to make a difference. I decided to stop using plastic bags. It may be a small step but at least it’s a step in the right direction. By switching to reusable bags I became a little greener and much happier.

I bought my first bag on Earth Day 2007 and I haven’t looked back. Now I use that bag and the few others I have accumulated every time I buy groceries or take a trip to the mall. Being a very poor college student, I never need more than one or two reusable bags when I shop. Those few bags carry for me about the same amount approximately seven plastic bags would hold — not to mention they are foldable and fit into my purse that I carry everywhere.

Now, with my reusable bags, I am helping the planet and making my walk to the apartment with the groceries much easier. Let’s face it: Two bags are easier to manage than seven that have a tendency to rip and tear. Next time a cashier asks you; “Paper or plastic?” say, “Neither!” and pull out your reusable shopping bag instead.

About the Author: Ashley White is a current undergraduate student at Virginia Tech. She is interning with OCHPEE for the summer.

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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Follow-Up: What Do You Use: Paper, Plastic, or Reusable Bags?

About the author: Dominic Bridgers was a summer intern in the Office of Public Affairs.

I never really thought about what bags I use when I go to the grocery store. I usually tend to get plastic, because I feel I can reuse a plastic bag over and over again for taking out the trash, bringing in lunch, picking up the dog’s mess, etc.

Reusable 110, Plastic 22, Paper 21I collected data from the July 21st Question of the Week, “What do you use: Paper, Plastic, or Reusable bags?” Among people who use paper or plastic, the answer came down to be pretty even. However, I was very surprised to see that almost all of the commenters said that they use reusable bags. The reason why most people use reusable bags is because they feel as if those bags are sturdier and they hold more. I must say that when that I am in the grocery store, I have not once seen a person with a reusable bag!

Thank you for taking your time in responding to “What do you use: Paper, Plastic, or Reusable bags?”

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

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?

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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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.