Paper or plastic?
How about durable canvas bags instead!
What kind of bags do you use to carry home groceries and other purchases? If you are like most shoppers, it's usually plastic. Plastic bags tote 80% of the nation's groceries up from 5% in 1982. Estimates are that between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. Plastic bags create serious environmental problems and impose economic costs:
- The production of plastic bags requires petroleum and often natural gas, both non-renewable resources. Extracting these resources helps destroy fragile habitats and ecosystems.
- When plastic bags breakdown, small plastic particles can pose threats to marine life and contaminate the food chain. Many thousands of marine mammals and seabirds die every year around the world as a result of plastic litter. When the animal dies and decays the plastic is free again to repeat the deadly cycle.
- Plastic bags are the new "urban tumbleweed" and can be seen in almost every part of the world, carried along by the wind. Often times plastic bags on crop land, contaminating a variety of crops around the world. Plastic bags can be especially damaging to cotton crops. A single plastic bag that ends up in the picked cotton can ruin thousands of yards of finished fabric. The cotton industry estimates that so-called lint contamination, which comes from a variety of sources, causes $200 million in losses each year worldwide.
- Discarded plastic bags take up scarce landfill space and once buried they can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
- While merchants seem to make plastic bags available free of charge, the cost is actually passed on to the customer. On average $10 to $15 per year is added to the price of goods.
What about paper? Paper bags are less of a burden on the environment. For example, they degrade more quickly than plastic and are less harmful to wildlife. But, compared to plastic, they require more energy to produce and more landfill space to dispose of.
So which should you use, plastic or paper? The answer is: neither! There is an environmentally friendly and inexpensive alternative: reusable cloth or canvas bags.
Reusable bags are:
- Low impact - Most reusable bags are made from natural fibers and are therefore biodegradable.
- Durable - Reusable bags, properly cared for, will last for years
- Sturdy - Reusable bags allow you to carry large amounts of goods safely and conveniently.
- Reduce household waste volume - By not using plastic or paper bags, you reduce the amount of waste you must throw away.
- Educational - Reusable bags makes a statement that you care about the environment and tells others that there is an alternative to plastic and paper bags.
Here are a few sources where reusable bags may be ordered online:
ReUseIt - for bags, lunch kits and much more - http://www.reuseit.com/
EcoBags - http://www.ecobags.com