Paper or Plastic?

In the past decade or so, more than 240 cities and counties have taxed or banned plastic bags at grocery stores. Yay! Well, sort of. It turns out that people were reusing those plastic bags to take out the trash or pick up after dogs. So their sudden absence triggered an enormous surge in the sales of small garbage bags. According to one expert, “about 30 percent of the plastic that was eliminated by the ban comes back in the form of thicker garbage bags.” But at least we switched from plastic to paper at the checkout line, and paper is a lot better than plastic, right? Yes, definitely … when it comes to nonbiodegradable litter. But when you consider “cutting down and processing trees, which involves lots of water, toxic chemicals, fuel and heavy machinery,” and factor in all those additional garbage bags, you begin to understand why some researchers believe “banning plastic shopping bags increases greenhouse gas emissions.” No problem, just bring your own tote bag, and the problem is solved. Well, sort of. “The Danish government recently did a study [in which they] estimate you would have to use an organic cotton bag 20,000 times more than a plastic grocery bag to make using it better for the environment.” So if the answer the age old question, Paper or Plastic is actually Neither; and even public radio approved tote bags are bad for the environment, how are you supposed to get groceries from the store to your house? You can always do what we do in the Bay Area and just use an app that gets a millennial to deliver the groceries to your doorstep (and like other humans, they’re almost entirely biodegradable). Planet Money: Are Plastic Bag Bans Garbage?

+ Overall, getting rid of plastic bags is a good thing. “The good news is that consumers in Europe have done a great job curbing their use of plastic bags, and fewer are ending up in waterways around the world. The bad news is that now plastic bottles are clogging oceans and rivers.”

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