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O Noes! Plastic Bags are Greener than Paper

Whole Foods, which, for those of you who don't have one, is the world's largest eco-healthy food store, has just promised to completely stop using plastic bags. And while I like that they're, y'know, considering these things, it turns out that their logic may be faulty.

So I decided to do a little research, and it turns out, the greenest thing about paper bags is the way people perceive them. Because they seem more natural, people think they're better for the environment. Well, it's a damn shame, but they're wrong.

Whole Foods' moving over to 100% recycled paper is actually going to be worse for the environment.

Creating recycled paper, it turns out, is a much more energy-intensive process than creating plastic bags. That's why grocery stores prefer you take the cialis in australia plastic. Plastic is also much easier to ship, as it takes up way less space in packing, and they weigh far less per item of shopping you take home with you. And while we might worry that all that plastic is coming from foreign oil, the amazing thing is that even with all the billions of plastic bags we use every year, they constitute about 0.03% of our oil use in the U.S.. Obviously not the most pressing problem we've got.

There is one way in which paper bags win out: They don't harm wildlife as much. But if you think you can keep a handle on your bags, and not leave them to get blown into the ocean, then you're better with plastic than with paper.

I'm not sure what Whole Foods is thinking...maybe they're really concerned about wildlife. Maybe they think people are more likely to re-use plastic bags. Maybe this is just the first step in getting people to switch over completely to reusable bags.

In any case, a greener measure would be to start charging people for the energy (and carbon) needed to produce disposable bags. That would give people a real incentive to (finally) stop using disposable bags.

My sources for this article:
TreeHugger - MSNBC - Institute for Life Cycle Environmental Assessment - LifeTips

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Comments (105)Add Comment
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written by revolutionrugger, January 25, 2008
maybe whole foods doesn't actually give a damn about the environment? that would be my guess. owned by some damn ex-hippy libertarian. Whole foods sells to a niche, that niche cares about the environment and generic levitra cheap their health (though not labor) But don't for a second think that wholefoods cares, as a corporation its structured to care about ONE thing. Profit.
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Baiyinah
written by Baiyinah, January 25, 2008
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written by Jimster, January 25, 2008
I think Whole foods is likely looking at the viagra online cheap bigger picture for the environment, not just the carbon side. They are including things like toxic foot print and sustainability.
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Wildlife
written by Allison, January 25, 2008
Plastic bags kill wildlife, lots of wildlife. Birds get stuck in them, turtles mistake them for jelly fish and eat them, other mammals eat them and die. It's not always the carbon. Promising to put them in a safe place won't wowrk. I've been on camel treks in the Sahara desert where plastic bags blew by us in the wind. Plastic bags suck and they are easily replaceable.
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written by Simmons, January 25, 2008
Though that may be true, plastic bags take MUCH MUCH longer than paper bags to decompose.

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Petroleum?
written by David, January 25, 2008
They take longer to decompose and you forgot one thing - plastic bags are made from petroleum. The ones in the stores are not even made from recycled plastic at all. At least the paper is made from pulp that was used for something before and not from a barrel of oil. Plus, it breaks down in the environment, unlike plastic.

I think the reasoning is faulty thinking - plastic is not better than paper, in any capacity.
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written by David, January 25, 2008
Sorry, did not mean you "forgot" petroleum, but you kind of glossed over the fact that we use oil to make bags to carry groceries with; anything we can do to at least end that practice is good in my book. Paper is way better than plastic for almost any purpose, if we have a choice. It's a step in the right direction and wow)) bestellen levitra online kudos to WF.

My fault, should have clarified.
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Legislation
written by Wayne, January 25, 2008
Whole Foods is unlikely to attract significant numbers of new customers as a result of the plastic bag policy, so I'm willing to give them some credit for acting like a responsible corporate citizen. In Vancouver Capers, a Whole Foods branch plant, has started giving away the reusable bags they were selling for $3.95 (there must have been a tidy profit in there somewhere).
My feeling is that the www.unifem.it most effective approach to the bag problem is for municipalities to ban plastic bags. At the same time the introduction of a kitchen waste collection program should greatly reduce the need for plastic garbage bags.
It's usually a question of education. There was a time when we didn't like being told we had to wear seat belts, couldn't smoke indoors or at the back of the airplane or had to wear motorcycle helmets but we adapted and we are better off for it.
Taking reusable bags to the grocery store will become as natural as taking your wallet.
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written by Joel, January 25, 2008
Having just moved to the US, the paper vs plastic debate is new to me. Of course neither should be the answer and either re-use what you've already got or a canvas/cotton bag - but if you've got my memory then more than likely you have to make a choice. Interesting to see that plastic might actually be better in the energy used to create, and distribute, but the after-effects surely must outweigh the short up-front benefit.
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written by J, January 25, 2008
I think, actually, most plastic bags that grocery stores distribute nowadays have the buy levitra now "1" or "2", er, meaning that they're recycleable.
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written by Magnulus, January 26, 2008
In Norway, we've been paying for our grocery bags for ages and ages. Some people pay without complaint, some pay and complain, and yet again some people then decide to re-use their plastic bags or get fabric bags that are "endlessly" reusable. We go shopping with backpacks a lot.
They're comfortable to carry heavy stuff with and you can fit rather a lot in a good-sized backpack.
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written by EV, January 26, 2008
In any case, a greener measure would be to start charging people for the energy (and carbon) needed to produce disposable bags.

We already are. Stores make up the cost of the bags by charging slightly higher prices. It's not like they get them for free, after all.

'Discount' grocery stores charge for bags separately. However, they also generally require the customers to bag their own groceries. Most people don't like doing this and so go to stores where the bags are already in the price of the items bought.
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charging for plastic bags?
written by brian Goldner, January 26, 2008
while I agree that charging for plastic bags would reduce their use, I'd like to point out that several places actually give you a discount for bringing your own bag. I've been to a Food Source in Sacramento, CA that gave 5 cents off for each bag you bring, and I've heard that Whole Foods actually doles out 10 cents per bag. Trader Joe's stores allow you to enter a raffle for a gift certificate each time you bring your own bag. My favorite would have to be the Sacramento Food Coop, as they donate money to charities of your choosing for whenever you save some bags.
Maybe if everyone else was more aware of the discounts they could get, they'd bring their own.
Also, riding a bike pretty much forces you to bring your own bags :)
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plastic never biodegrades
written by kevin, January 26, 2008
But if you think you can keep a handle on your bags, and not leave them to get blown into the ocean, then you're better with plastic than with paper.


This is basically out of any human's control, unless you have a closet to stuff full of the things. Then, you would need to hold on to them for the rest of your life and http://vignovin.com/cialis-online-canada pass them on to your children to safeguard. Plastic bags do not biodegrade. Ever. They will eventually find their way into the ocean, landfills, animals' stomachs, and your own food.
See http://plasticsareforever.org/?page_id=3.

While paper is more energy-intensive to produce, it does biodegrade.

Of course, the best option available is to reuse canvas or hemp ones. There are pros and cons to all of our choices.

Personally, I split my baggery consumption into reusable canvas and plain brown paper ones from the co-op which I reuse for my kitchen garbage and recycling at home. I never buy plastic trash bags for trash, that's just silly. I'd be curious to know what other people do for their garbage and recycling around the house.
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Joel Above is right
written by Audrey, January 26, 2008
Why doesn't whole foods (and other grocery chains) only provide canvas bags that can be reused for all kinds of things? They really aren't expensive considering you can use them virtually forever! Everywhere I shopped when I lived in Germany albeit briefly charged for any type of bag you wanted so everyone reused their bags be they plastic or canvas... seems like a win-win. The grocery makes money on sale of bags and the environment has less human waste to process!
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indeed
written by Adeline, January 26, 2008
I never taught about comparing the www.airatlanta.ie processes of making plastic bags and paper bags. Few people are aware about information you have found.
Still, there is another thing about plastic bags.. they biodegrade in about 400 years... it doesn`t take nearly that long for paper bags.
The best option for a bag should be that made from textile material. The advantage is that they can be reused over and over again...
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Plastic is better?
written by Scott, January 26, 2008
What about the thought that trees are renewable and plastic is not. I think that holds some weight. It may take some more energy but when our nation wastes millions of barrels of oil on plastic bags every year, I'd rather know it's paper which is renewable. Besides, shouldn't Whole Foods, being eco-friendly and wow look it levitra soft all, just switch to reusable bags? If they only had reusable bags for sale that would be much better. And if you had no bag the staff could gladly fill your cart with your good just like they do at BJ's Wholesale or Sam's Club. Just thoughts.
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Paper vs plastic?
written by Nina, January 26, 2008
The big IKEA stores sell bags at their checkout. They are incredibly strong, huge, but fold down to a managable size. I try to carry one with me every time I go shopping.
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decomposition?
written by jared, January 26, 2008
I think by far the most relevant argument against plastic bags is that they may not actually "leave" the environment for thousands of years. Already countries around the world are having a hard time collecting and then getting rid of millions of disposed plastic bags. The reality is that most people don't throw away their plastic bags right or, in many cases (like my own), their municipalities don't accept plastic bags for recycling. Sure, the real solution is for everybody to use re-usable bags instead of either paper or plastic, but in the mean time, I'd rather use something that will decompose into environmentally valuable organic matter way before I do...I don't like knowing my plastic bag will live on longer than me!
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written by Jessica, January 26, 2008
I used to cashier at The Real Canadian Superstore. At my location, they charged 4 cents per plastic bag, which was usually met by a bunch of complaining. However, it did result in people reusing plastic bags from home, or purchasing the store's reusable options - large, heavy-duty plastic bags, cloth bags, or bins. If I recall correctly, the money from the bags went towards a recycling program, though I could be wrong there.

There's even a Superstore location in Langford BC that recently banned the use of plastic bags altogether.
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Use neither
written by F, January 26, 2008
If you want to help the environment, save money, eat healthier, and decrease corporate dependency, then grow your own food.

Farm for freedom.
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Grow Hemp
written by Ian, January 26, 2008
I know "grow hemp" and you automatically a pothead. But seriously, hemp is a weed that could replace our need to make paper from trees. Nothing is greener than that.
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written by chittah, January 26, 2008
what about biodegradable plastic bags? Is that an option? Not as good as taking your own bags, but still may be better for the environment than recycled paper bags, or regular plastic.
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Whole Foods should stop using ALL bags
written by PVgeek, January 26, 2008
They should offer a $10 dollar bag at the checkout line for those who forgot to bring their own. No bag is better than paper or plastic. Whole Foods has become nothing more than a money grubbing green masked corporate clown so I doubt they would do anything that green! They only want to appear like they are helping the planet for bigger profits. >:(
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Yeah, charge a premium for any bag. Clo
written by Jim, January 26, 2008
My wife and I did a river clean up about 8 years ago and the group pulled thousands of plastic shopping bags from the river.

Ever since then, we try to use our growing collection of cloth bags instead.

Other countries (Germany, France, etc) charge you extra if you want bags, so should the price of cialis US.
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Just some points for discussion
written by Wendy, January 27, 2008
In my family we have always gotten paper bags, and then saved them to reuse for other purposes. One such use is as a container for paper recycling, since the paper has to be in a paper bag when it goes into the dumpster. I guess one could argue that plastic bags can also be reused, but it seems like those tend to accumulate a lot faster than they can be re-purposed.

I also like the idea that paper breaks down a lot faster than plastic, which can take hundreds of years to break down. I suppose this may be a landfill space vs. air pollution issue.

I do prefer option C, reusable bags. I was delighted in the past few weeks to see an increasing number of stores selling reusable bags for a dollar or so apiece. When the price is cheap and the product is a lot better than what you get for free, the even the not-so-environmentally-friendly members of the general public are likely to choose the more environmentally friendly option. Then the issue of paper or plastic becomes, on the occasions when a person forgets those reusable bags at home, more of an issue of "Which one will I have the most use for at home?" since the accumulated supply of plastic and paper bags at home will no longer be so overly abundant.
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written by Kristen, January 27, 2008
Cloth bags are great, even when you make your own. Add your own flair. But what I think is even better, is just not getting a bag. If you have only 3 or 4 items that you can easly carry to your car, why use a bag when you have arms?
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It's all about marketing
written by The Lucifer Principle, January 27, 2008
Whole foods just wants to attract eco geeks who don't know better ;)
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written by Magnulus, January 27, 2008
Kristen: I would say not taking your car for shopping is more eco-friendly than cutting the 100 mg viagra use of bags alltogether. ^_^
I don't own a car at all, so I would say cloth bags are awesome. Cloth bags and backpacks.
There are many ways to turn plastic bags into sturdier and more re-usable bags as well, which is nice for people who've got a lot of bags stashed in the cupboards.
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a lot of fail..
written by xmasta, January 27, 2008
I see a lot of fail in those comments, almost everyone see the end product that they take home, claiming its not possible to cluturize ourselves to control our plastic disposal methods (i know i dont go throwing plastic to wildlife/rivers.. cmon, teach your children and cheap cialis pills its fine) etc.. but what was the article about, it was about whats more eco friendly.

Did you think and read it even throughly before commenting?
How about the fact that if you buy those paper bags, shipping new paper bags takes a lot of more fuel(they take more room, same amount of paper bags means more trips for transportation) burning/energy use to replace those in that shop.

I'm from EU, i pay for all plastic bags and nobody complains about it, geez.. and yes, sometimes i reuse, if i dont forget, and if neccessery i just buy another one.
bread costs here 10 of local currency, plastic bag usuall 1.5, seeing someone here thinking its ok to complain about 4 sents just seems ridicilous to me.

lets now try getting our head out of the shop box and think how using one or another matters more globally.
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written by Tim, January 27, 2008
Get with it, Hank. Shallow analysis. It's not just paper vs. plastic. What about cloth bags . . . reusable bags of any sort . . or no bags. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Another key factor is that the plastic bags don't biodegrade. Have you ever participated in a stream cleanup? Streams and rivers throughout the US are clogged with plastic bags that are difficult to remove.

Whole Foods is trying to be responsible. Why dump on them for that?
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Great topic Hank
written by George Vaccaro, January 27, 2008
I was wondering when someone was going to bring this up and I think you did an excellent job. Many of the comments here point out the main problem with environmentalism in general. People "feel" that something is good or bad without really thinking it through completely or having all the facts.

You very articulately presented the case for plastic over paper, while you did leave certain things out, like the actual numbers involved and all of the various impacts and factors (which I understand can be both hard to gather and it's cool buy cheapest cialis convey), but many of the comments you have received seem not to acknowledge that you actually did do research - which is more than anyone else here has done.

What has also not been mentioned enough is that plastic grocery bags are recyclable, but even better, unlike many other uses of plastic, are immediately reusable. They also are more sanitary than paper bags for kitchen waste than paper.

I use supermarket bags for my trash instead of large kitchen garbage bags. I wonder what those people who claim they don't use plastic grocery bags are using for their kitchen waste.

I was recently in Australia and got to witness a large environmental rally criticizing everything from oil, natural gas and clean coal to even salt water desalination. I couldn't help but notice that a huge number of printed cards were being handed out (and in most cases discarded), so I asked one of the card distributors if he thought it was at all unusual to be handing out printed paper cards vs. just holding a sign with a web address on it. His response was "it's printed on recycled paper" as if that ended the discussion and was clear proof that it was alright. Well once again, use your head - it took energy to recycle that paper and then print, cut and transport them, and most wind up in the trash.

This is IMO why there is huge polarization about environmental issues. Most people would of course dispose of their plastic bags properly or reuse them, but try to tell them that they are hurting the environment by using them, and without actually knowing the facts and you just become a wacko. Hand them a printed card, even on recycled paper and it becomes a case of "my uses of resources are OK, but yours aren't."

Also, minor point here, to all those that claim that cotton bags are the single answer, they are definitely the right thing for individuals to do, but the truth of the matter is that most people are busy, their productivity being the highest priority, and there will always be someone who shows up at a store without their bags with them. I think, as others have said here that charging for them might be a better move. Yes the bag price is built in, but separating it encourages reuse - like can and only today viagra soft tabs 100 mg bottle deposits encourage recycling.

Thanks for bringing this up Hank. IMO you do a great job of reporting factually rather than emotionally, which is really refreshing.
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written by Ken Roberts, January 27, 2008
I agree with the general consensus that paper bags are better than plastic due to the biodegradability problem. I think the writer of this article is too overly focused on carbon production and global warming. Global warming is only a small part of environmental problems overall, and we need to be careful not to simply analyze everything in terms of carbon production.

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written by Ken Roberts, January 27, 2008
Also, people aren't throwing plastic bags into rivers generally. They usually get there from the landfills and other sources that gradually change over time. Also remember that new landfills are always being built, and homes are being placed over old ones. If you're not recycling the plastic bags, they will eventually end up in the natural environment.

A couple more points: recycling itself consumes energy. You have to take the bags to a place to recycle them, then they have to be shipped to a recycling location, and then the new plastic has to be shipped somewhere else where it can be reused. This should be included in your analysis.

Then also you have to consider other things. What if the paper bags were manufactured and transported using clean energy?

PS, if you're using your plastic bags to throw away trash, you're still using more plastic than someone who is using a garbage bag. Small plastic bags have a larger surface area per volume.
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Questions
written by George Vaccaro, January 27, 2008
Ken, I agree with you about not having a purely carbon based perspective, or any singular perspective for that matter. For example, I also think you have to take economics into consideration which is something that is very often not taken into consideration by the many anti-capitalists in the environmental movement.

None of this is an exact science due to the number of variables, like whether or not a particular item will get recycled or reused or simply discarded, or what people's response will be to any given stimulus - like "charging" for bags.

I do have a few questions for you.

I'd like to see how you reached the conclusion about "using more plastic than someone who is using a garbage bag."

First of all grocery bags are generally thinner ply than garbage bags. I would bet that based on that alone your statement is incorrect.

Secondly, this is a re-purposing of a bag that was already used once. Factoring in the extra environmental costs of manufacturing and transporting those single purpose garbage bags there clearly would be no contest.

Also, I would assume that Hank's initial research included full life-cycle analysis including the energy costs of recycling each type of bag.

With respect to your suggestion about using clean energy. That is certainly something that should enter the discussion, however until there are surpluses of clean energy, that discussion adds as many variables as it eliminates. For example, were you to use clean energy, for the time being you'd be using energy from a collective pool and simply shifting the so called dirty energy use to something else.

Then there is the economics. Not to drill down too much or belabor this point, but since clean energy is currently more expensive, products that used it would be more expensive too, and therefore likely to impact other dynamics. For example moving production to other countries where the environmental laws are different, therefore simply moving the problem someplace else.

You must always consider the law of unintended consequences.

For example, it has been suggested that buying in bulk is bad, even despite the extra costs of more packaging for the alternative. This seems counterintuitive at first. But this is supposedly because individual packaging keeps things fresher longer, and again supposedly, the largest waste comes from wasted product since they have the most cost built into them. For example potato chips - the cost to produce the potato is huge compared to the cost of the packaging (and yes I do mean environmental cost). The argument is that wasting food is more environmentally expensive than wasting the plastic bag it comes in.

Anyway, good points and interesting discussion.
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written by rob, January 27, 2008
I have worked in the packaging industry for years and http://www.privateeryachts.com/levitra-next-day without doubt paper bags are less eco friendly to produce than plastic carrier bags. Paper bags use far more materials, energy and transportation, because of their bulk. At a rough guess, I would save 10* plus more.

Also the point about plastic bags never degrading isn't totally correct. About thirty percent of the plastic bags we produce break down within a year.

I'm not saying I agree with using plastic carrier bags, I don't. I believe well made reusable bags are the way to go, made of whatever material you fancy.
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too many bags...
written by Chris, January 28, 2008
If I was running whole foods, I would have banned both paper and plastic. They are distributing something called a better bag now anyway, which is a bag that can be reused. The real issue is whether or not people will in fact reuse the bags. I think if they were to get rid of all one time bags, it would at least get people thinking about how they are going to transport goods. We are so reliant on these bags. Also, when I go somewhere like safeway, they always put one or two items in the plastic bags. Or produce bags, there are still plasic bags in the produce section. When I shop I always just throw my fruit and veggies in the basket, I see no purpose for the plastic bag in produce. If one is buying organic produce anyway, why would you put it in something so far from organic. Most people wash produce, so it can't be a sterile issue.

I do agree that the author of this article is way too focused on energy use and carbon footprint. There are many other concerns with this issue. It seems many people relate every environmental and social issue for that matter with energy now, ever since global warming became so popular. It's like only eating locally. That is all fine and good, but it is hard to find good organic produce in Michigan in January. Also, American create so many markets for third world countries it is unbelievable. What would happen if we stopped buying coffee. Pretty sure that is not growing in the midwest, but if we simply stopped because of food miles, think about all the people that would lose jobs.

There are many ways to look at issues. Nothing is perfect, but we have do the best we can in as many ways as we can.

I also think looking at whole foods negatively doesn't do much good. It should spark conversation about how costco wraps each apple in thick plastic cases before you even have a choice. Or that our next generation is going to think water comes naturally in a plastic bottle. What the heck is wrong with the tap? That is all most bottle water is anyway, look at the source. Aquafina bottles a lot of their water from L.A. tap. In case you haven't heard, Los Angeles has a hard time getting water. That means water is coming down south hundreds of miles only to be bottled in plastic, and shipped all over world.

Getting rid of plastic bags hopefully won't mean using more paper bags (which is how this article makes it seem) Hopefully it will raise awareness on this issue and others.


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written by Ken Roberts, January 28, 2008
George, you are right that plastic grocery bags may be thinner than garbage bags depending on the manufacturer. The difference is probably very little on average.

My original point was that we're getting all wrapped up in complex evaluations of what is the least bad product for the environment. There are too many unknowns in such cases to make an accurate comparison. For example, is it worse to emit carbon or have non-biodegradable substances in the ground? Who knows? Like a math problem with too many variables, we need to make simplifications and generic cialis tabs assumptions before we can make any progress.

We need to focus on the manageable aspects of environmentalism. Lets look at the macro problems and talk about how we solve each one individually. For example, first we can talk about how production of bags emits greenhouse gases.

To solve the CO2 problem, we clearly need to do more to promote clean energy. Most people do not believe it is possible to have 100% clean energy production in our lifetimes... but I disagree, if a solar array is placed on every rooftop and other alternatives are utilized. Of course it may be decades before we even make significant progress on this point, but I think our efforts would be better spent tackling issues such as these rather than discouraging people from using paper bags.

The other issue is biodegradability. It is my opinion that we should only be using non-biodegradable substances in bulk if it is absolutely essential. Currently the market puts no extra cost on products that do not biodegrade, so there is no incentive to design products that do. Besides paper bags, I am confident that we can design plastic-like biodegradable bags with a little effort.

So instead of attempting to balance which type of environmental damage is less worse, lets attempt to solve both problems.
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See what WFM is actually doing...
written by tyler, January 28, 2008
OK - most likely without knowing you are missing a big piece of the puzzle here... WFM is not pushing people to switch plastic bags for recycled paper ones, they are pushing people to reusable bags. I live in Austin, TX headquarters for WFM and one of the test markets for their new plastic bag-less program. Truthfully I rarely shop at WFM, too corporate and greedy for my taste, I prefer something more local myself (where I have brought my own bags for 10 years), but I have to admit my interest was piqued when WFM announced they were banning plastic bags at their stores in Austin (and giving away free reusable bags for a day). So I went and got my free bag. They call them 'better bags' and keep them slung over the credit card pads, they are colorful and cheap at .99 cents, but they give you 10 cents for using them or other reusable bags (which in Austin you can keep for yourself or elect to donate to a local eco-charity), so they are .89 cents after the rebate and only take you a few trips to pay for the bags. The bag is sturdy and www.chemistswithoutborders.org appealing.

The interesting part is that after they have started the program on my infrequent subsequent trips I have seen more people leaving the store with the reusable bag than I have paper ones and I have also seen a large number of people bringing the the WFM 'better' bags to shop at the local stores.

Something in the zeitgeist was clearly ready to make the switch and I think the price point working in concert with the ban caused people to warm to the idea. I see it as WFM is reducing in total the disposable bags they put out into the environment, so that is better for the environment. I also think we in the US are collectively ready to move to reusable bags we just need an option that works for us from a price perspective, and a little push (banning the plastic ones is the push and the sub-dollar price point with rebate is effective given they have previously always been free)... I think WFM has hit the sweet spot.

While I generally dislike WFM and their greed, I feel they have made a big step forward in the grocery industry as it relates to the shopping bag problem.
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Storm in a tea-cup
written by Virgil, January 28, 2008
It's not the bag, folks - its the crap you're putting IN the bag that counts. No amount of self-righteous "I bought my own organic-hemp bag" crap is gonna wash with the fact that you drove to the store, and are buying things shipped in from thousands of miles away. Priorities should be drawn, and bag composition belongs waaaay down the list.
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written by Anna, January 28, 2008
Thanks for researching this, Hank. I've often wondered this myself, but hadn't gotten around to checking the facts. I use cloth bags when I go shopping (and most of my comes from my garden or from the farmer's market two blocks away that I get to on foot or bike - yay!), but sometimes I find myself at the store without a bag and have to choose.

I use my plastic bags as garbage bags. My two-person household fills up one to two plastic grocery bags a week, though I hope to reduce that significantly when I start my balcony worm bin. Paper bags get reused to collect paper recycling. Lately I've been good about bringing bags with me, so we're often out of both possibilities and have nowhere to put our garbage, so we just try to make less of it!

Anyway, now I think I'll lean toward the plastic bags on the rare occasion that I have to make the choice. Thanks.

DFTBA. :)

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One step at a time...
written by tyler, January 28, 2008
To Storm in a tea-cup -- while I agree we have to look at the big picture, it is an aggregate that makes it all work, small steps, and one at a time make a big difference. AND Love where U shop..
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written by Kiashu, January 29, 2008
I think perhaps Hank Green didn't read all the links he gave us, for example this one says,

Initially paper bags use more energy than plastic to produce. However as both recycling rates increase, paper bags save greater quantities of energy than plastics.

So the issue isn't whether we have paper or plastic bags, but how much we recycle each; if we recycle each close to 100%, paper is better than plastic.

I should add that while many seem to be aware of the environmental dangers of plastic (not degrading, giving off poisons when burned, etc), few realise that paper going to landfill contributes to global warming. You know how a rubbish dump stinks? That's called "putrefaction", or "anaerobic decomposition" and during that methane is released; methane is a strong greenhouse gas.

Each kg or lb of paper in landfill when rotting produces 0.4kg or 0.4lbs of carbon dioxide-equivalent in greenhouse gases. Thus, failing to recycle paper contributes to global warming.

In summary, we can say that if not recycled, paper uses more energy than plastic, paper poisons us not today but tomorrow, plastic poisons us today and tomorrow both. If recycled, paper is much better than plastic.

In a world with growing population and overnight tramadol online growing consumption, I think it's obvious that we can't get away with not recycling.

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written by MikeDC, January 29, 2008
few realize that paper going to landfill contributes to global warming


But it is a CLOSED LOOP system. The amount of CO2 released from decomposing or even burned paper is nearly equal to that removed from the atmosphere during the growth of the tree. If methane became a problem due to anaerobic decomposition then composting is a better option.

Global warming is a big problem but its not the only problem.

When it comes down to permanent toxicity, plastic is a greater of two evils. No amount of energy or CO2 calculations will remove the toxins released into our environment from plastic disposal and production.

My town does not recycle plastic bags, so they just end up in landfill.

I hope his debate ends in the next few years with an increase in popularity of reusable bags.
0
Cloth wins. Period. Game Over.
written by NatureGeek, January 30, 2008
I wish the whole "paper or plastic" discussion would just go away - cloth wins, end of discussion!

I think it would be great if they just had NO bags. And if someone forgot their cloth bag, there are two options. Boxes (which Wild Oats used to have up front) from cases/crates of goods shipped to the store that can be reused before recycling, or buy a cloth bag and remember it next time.

It took me a while to train myself to ~always~ bring bags, but now it's just a normal part of my shopping experience.
0
Never mind...
written by NatureGeek, January 30, 2008
I just read tyler's post above, about what WFM is actually doing, and that sounds fantastic! Plus, when I said "cloth" bags, what I really meant was "reusable" bags - preferably made of something recycled or organic, but whatever.

I also agree that it's what you put IN the bag, and how you got to the store, that really count for more, but every little bit helps for certain, and considering that everyone uses grocery bags, no matter what kind, all added together the impact may be bigger than you'd think.

One nice thing about living in a city is that it is often possible to walk, bike, take public transit to the store - I used to walk when I lived in downtown Pasadena, and that was great. But now I live in a MUCH more rural area and that's all a little difficult. When the weather warms up, I hope to bike to the store, though. With my cloth bags. And buy organic and fair trade and all that other good stuff whenever I can. (local isn't much of an option here, since it's not a farming community).
0
New: 'Bagball'
written by Frisbee, January 31, 2008
In the Netherlands in some supermarkets they have just come up with the 'Bagball': a huge plastic ball in which one can dump his undamaged used bags. Everyone can take out a used bag for free or decide to buy a new one. This might solve part of the problem, though of course it would be best if everyone would bring his own sustainable bag. For an impression of the 'Bagball' click www.tassenbol.nl.
0
Plastc bags V Paper bags
written by Kevin Coleman, January 31, 2008
So, so, sad that someone with intelligence should miss the whole point of the issue about 'plastic'!
What do you think happens to the dumped plastic in all its forms Mr intelligent?
It pollutes.
It kills.
It makes loads of money for the fat cats!
Thats the only problem with intelligent people, they don't remember the pictures of the wild animals choking on our shit!
0
Groceries side?
written by Jenny, January 31, 2008
OK - I work for a grocery store. I have been pulling for us to change to a more eco-friendly bag. Currently we offer cloth for 99¢ each, or paper or plastic. We pay 9¢ for the paper bag, and 2.5¢ for each plastic, and we pay $1.59 for each cloth bag. We can hardly sell the fabric - "no one wants to PAY for a bag to put the items they are PAYING for in it." I hear it all day from the cashiers. I had proposed that we change to a biobag or a cornstarch bag. The biobag is a plastic that has an additive in it that allows the plastic to breakdown within one years time. The cornstarch breaksdown in 3 months. They also have potato bags, but we haven't been able to find a good resource for purchasing them. I agree - I wish all of our customers would use the cloth bags, but it isn't (currently) realistic to think that other people will think about this. A customer wants what they want without thought of the process it takes for them to get it.

Does any of you have thoughts on the biobags, cornstarch or potato for the stubborn consumer?
0
no bag is the best bag
written by sybil miller, January 31, 2008
i shop at costco sometimes for groceries, and see LOTS of people there buying carts full of groceries as well as other items. Costco has NO BAGS at all! Doesn't seem to bother anyone. They have some cardboard boxes you can take if you want (and easy to recycle or reuse), or you can just put your stuff in your car and drive it home. So it would seem that we can do without paper or plastic, it's that our expectation is that we get our food bagged at checkout. No one expects that at Costco, so no one complains.
0
Excellent LCA thoughts forward
written by Dan, January 31, 2008
This was an excellent summary analysis of the life cycle analysis of one product vs. another. And, as indicated by the multiple comments--a thought provoking exercise. It takes energy to make any product. Then it must be packaged, transported, distributed, used, maybe reused, and maybe recycled (energy used here!) or thrown away. Becoming more efficient in energy usage during all phases of this life, means less pollution and less CO2 output--as all energy used produces "pollution" and CO2. I recently read comments from another user talking about a similar analysis on paper vs. styrofoam cups. Paper--more energy on the front end to make, heavier, and coated, preventing recycling. Styrofoam, less energy on front end to make, lighter to transport, compactable in landfill and only now viagra no rx disposal. Styrofoam came out on top.

To me this mind set of actually thinking about how things are made is very important to becoming more efficient and producing less pollution.
0
...
written by Rob, January 31, 2008
Plastic doesn't decompose, paper does. End of story. Paper wins.
0
Not "Bagobiz" but Cannabis read Hemp
written by Djarada, January 31, 2008
Here in Berlin Deutschland(Germany),we(my family) use cloth bags to shop and when I have to do a bigshop, I take the bicycle trailer which doubles as a shopping trolley, it´s the most comfortable way to shop and even though we live on the second floor it´s a great way to get some exercise without the carrying.
In my country "Australia" and China they have declared war on the plastic bag, a few East African countrys have already given it up long ago.
I personally always refuse plastic bags as I always carry a rucksack.
Why don´t we use bags made from "Hemp", not only would we have an extremely strong bag due to it´s long fibres that can be used again and again, would hold out well if it gets wet, would carry well with a heavy shop and our teenagers would then feel really proud to do the shopping, because it would be really cool for them to be seen about town, using the other end of a plant they so much enjoy smoking, oh! and umm, we wouldn´t have to import the ilegal stuff we could keep it completely "Home Grown" ;D
0
It's a Start
written by Jackie, January 31, 2008
I'm glad that Whole Foods is doing something about banning plastic bags.
National Geographic Magazine had a disturbing article about the trash
that ends up in the ocean and in animals' stomachs; and most of that trash
was plastic bags.
I shop at Whole Foods and I purchased the $0.99 reusable bags.
What's great is that Whole Foods refunds their customers $0.05 back per bag
every time they shop at the store using their reusable bags.
Plus, it feels good not to be putting an average of 7 plastic bags per week in the trash can which adds up to about 1,456 bags per year that my family is not putting into the landfill.

0
Paper vs. plastic doesn't matter accordi
written by Duff, January 31, 2008
According to the research done by the Union of Concerned Scientists in the book The Consumers Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, the whole paper vs. plastic vs. cloth debate is an extremely minor one that we need not worry about until everyone is purchasing fewer (and more fuel efficient) cars, has much more efficient homes and appliances, and is eating less red meat.

I tend to agree, as far as environmental impact goes.

As far as consciousness of stuff goes, bringing cloth bags to the grocery store is a relatively good thing.
0
...
written by hybrid007, February 01, 2008
It's too bad they didn't investigate Cereplast and http://www.roli-guggers.de/levitra-sales-in-canada the new cerial based thermoplastics that degrade to liquid cellulose in 60-180 days. (cerp)

look for them in the future, they are expanding to production mode right now.....

off oil in every way possible....get creative
0
Paper vs Plastic
written by Travis, February 01, 2008
Plastic bags are made from natural gas not petroleum like some may think. It also takes 3 times the amount of energy to make a paper bag vs a plastic bag. We need to do a better job of recycling and finding another life for our plastic bags....Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
0
disposable bag surcharge
written by Ashley L. now F., February 02, 2008
Hank,
Second to last paragraph, I think you switched paper and plastic.

I vote that all grocery stores in the US follow the Australian trend--in Australia they have long offered the same reusable bags that US stores are just now starting to sell, the kind with a stiff piece of plastic in the bottom that makes them extra sturdy. If you don't bring your reusable bags to the store and they have to whip out the disposable plastic bags, they give you really dirty looks and then charge you something like 10 cents per plastic bag.

The combination of dirty looks and disposable bag surcharge makes sure that everyone remembers to bring their reusable bags. Forgetting your bags would be like forgetting your wallet: sure, it happens, but 99.99% of the time people just make sure that it doesn't.

I also think that all stores should offer recycling for both paper and plastic bags. My curbside recycling, for example, doesn't take plastic bags, and only one grocery store in town takes them back for recycling. (Unfortunately, that's not the *one* grocery store in town that carries the local, rBGH-free, glass-bottled milk I buy...so it's not the one I shop at.)

0
reusing bags is best
written by vincent, February 03, 2008
here in Ireland since they added a levy to plastic bags people not have reusable bags. It works. Very few bits of plastic fluttering in the bushes. Its reuse not paper or plastic.
0
Why?
written by kristen, February 10, 2008
I'm going to go 4 renewable bags because plastic bags are made of oil witch is a non-renewable energy sorce, and if we run out of oil people will be lost because they hven't swithed to a renewable sorce like corn. I also choose renewable bags because if we use paper bags we will kill trees & waste energy because it takes more than 4x the amont of energy to make a paper bag than it does plastic, but plastic is bad to, so yeah, I think the US of A should change to renewable bags. ;D
0
...
written by Joseluz, February 25, 2008
Wow this thread is heated!
I work at a wholefoods and would just like to say that a step in any direction is good for the environment.

The one thing I know about this coutry is that we don't like being charged for a luxury. Wholefoods knows this and so do you!!!
So slimming down the options to either paper bags or your bags is a step a better direction.
And as a matter a fact although I am not a cashier I've seen that people are bringing their own reusable bags or opting to buy them at the register more and more.
WFM's act has caught media attention and therefore people who wouldn't normally care.
It's so obvious that something is happening because our lines get backed up now due to customers making a run to their car for their bags.
We're even considering signiage to reming people. ha.
0
...
written by Frances, February 28, 2008
I 've switched to canvas bags for groceies. But I need the paper bags as a liner for my food waste trash. I used to use the plastic ones, which were great. They didn't leak. Then someone told me the carbon footprint of paper was greater than plastic. What do you suggest for the kitchen waste trash? Thanks for your input.
0
MISS
written by MOI, March 03, 2008
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0
paper rocks
written by jimal, March 05, 2008
Paper is better because it doesn't harm wildlife as much and try it buy now online cialis it decomposes
0
TROGDOR
written by TROGDOR!!!!, March 05, 2008
trogdor is pimpin ;D
0
fattyhaha
written by Liquidspeed, March 05, 2008
;D lolololololololololol H-o-t-w-i-r-e hotwire.com!
0
punk
written by JAMES BOND, March 06, 2008
HEY PUNKCICLE WHATS UR PROBLEM GOSH I HATE U LIQUIDSPEED
0
GO 007!!! im ur sidekick 008!
written by James Bonds sidekick---BATMAN!!, March 06, 2008
woot! go james bond love ur movies! their pimpin' ;D ;D ;D ;D
0
yes
written by JAMES BOND, March 06, 2008
yes they are pretty pimp hear bout the new one coming out like next year lol
0
woot!!
written by James Bonds sidekick---BATMAN!!, March 06, 2008
goe trogdor hes pimp too!!! and diary of a wimpi kidd frikin sweet (oh yeah plastic is wayyy better btw )
0
...
written by James Bonds sidekick---BATMAN!!, March 06, 2008
yeahya this sitte i amazazin! ;D ;D im soo cool
0
called
written by JAMES BOND, March 06, 2008
its called the quantum of solace
0
bicycle man
written by JAMES BOND, March 06, 2008
Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

You say black I say white
You say bark I say bite
You say shark I say hey man
Jaws was never my scene
And I don't like Star Wars
You say Rolls I say Royce
You say God give me a choice
You say Lord I say Christ
I don't believe in Peter Pan
Frankenstein or Superman
All I wanna do is

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my
Bicycle races are coming your way
So forget all your duties oh yeah!
Fat bottomed girls they'll be riding today
So look out for those beauties oh yeah
On your marks get set go
Bicycle race bicycle race bicycle race
Bicycle bicycle bicyI want to ride my bicycle
Bicycle bicycle bicycle
Bicycle race

You say coke I say caine
You say John I say Wayne
Hot dog I say cool it man
I don't wanna be the President of America
You say smile I say cheese
Cartier I say please
Income tax I say Jesus
I don't wanna be a candidate
For Vietnam or Watergate
Cos all I want to do is

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like
0
QWEEN RULEZ!!! THE SKOOLZ!!
written by James Bonds sidekick---BATMAN!!, March 06, 2008




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hello
written by Andre Iguodala, March 06, 2008
Andre Iguodala Andre Iguodala Andre Iguodala Andre Iguodala Andre Iguodala
0
hey stephen
written by bond, March 06, 2008
sup stephen
0
Cheese
written by Andre Iguodala, March 06, 2008
;D ;D 8)
0
YEAH SUUP STEVO
written by James Bonds sidekick---BATMAN!!, March 06, 2008
sup im batman nice to meet ya
0
its a kinda magic babay!!!!
written by bond, March 06, 2008
It’s a kind of magic
It’s a kind of magic
A kind of magic
One dream one soul, one prize
One goal, one golden glance of what should be
It’s a kind of magic
One shaft of light that shows the way
No mortal man can win this day
It’s a kind of magic
The bell that rings inside your mind
It’s challenging the doors of time
It's a kind of magic
The waiting seems eternity
The day will dawn of sanity
Is this a kind of magic?
It's a kind of magic
There can be only one
This rage that lasts a thousand years
Will soon be gone
This flame that burns inside of me
I’m hearing secret harmonies
It’s a kind of magic
The bell that rings inside your mind
It’s challenging the doors of time
It’s a kind of magic
It’s a kind of magic
This rage that lasts a thousand years
Will soon be, will soon be
Will soon be gone
This is a kind of magic
There can be only one
This rage that lasts a thousand years
Will soon be gone
Magic – it’s a kind of magic
It’s a kind of magic
Magic, magic, magic, magic
It’s magic
It’s a kind of magic
0
dorkstock
written by James Bonds sidekick---BATMAN!!, March 06, 2008
lame.......
0
cheesier
written by Andre Iguodala, March 06, 2008
Andre Iguodala ;D joe hamburger
0
Andre iduo-whatever
written by James Bonds sidekick---BATMAN!!, March 06, 2008
dude or dudette ur obsessed with him go marry him
0
shutup
written by Andre Iguodala, March 06, 2008
he ausomer than u
0
...
written by James Bonds sidekick---BATMAN!!, March 06, 2008
haha i shut u up thts rite muahhahahahah
0
psh
written by bond, March 06, 2008
u wish! punkcicle
0
motzorrela cheese
written by Andre Iguodala, March 06, 2008
i like all kinds of cheese , swiss cheese chedder cheese etc ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D
0
wanna be friends?
written by James Bonds sidekick---BATMAN!!, March 06, 2008
what?? i thout u were him?!?! lol
0
U are all wrong
written by Sara, March 27, 2008
Paper may seem better than plastic but it is just as bad. Paper uses up the trees people! You would have thought of that at least! Anyway paper bags also pollut because they make factories work harde.

Plastic bags are murderous. Killing animals and keeping plants from getting sun! If you go to www.reusablebags.com they can give you facts about it.
0
Much heat and not much light in comments
written by Bryan Allen, April 10, 2008
Definitely interesting to see the variety of comments to this article. Quite a few people insist that plastic grocery bags are made from oil - oops, no, the feedstock is ethylene which is derived primarily from various forms of natural gas, as one commenter noted.

What type of bag you use to bring home your groceries is such a minuscule part of your potential environmental impact that it seems to illustrate the ever-present human tendency to obsess about little details while losing track of the big picture.

I've used fabric bags off and on for groceries ever since I attended college in the early 1970's. Perhaps the avid promoters of fabric bags should wait a few years before they solidify their opinions. Fabric bags HAVE to be washed, they oftentimes slow down the grocery-bagging process (time is money is energy), they wear out surprisingly quickly, and are an ever-present hassle to remember to bring. If you use your car and your wife's car and your bicycle and your motorcycle on different occasions to get groceries then it ultimately works out that you have to have a LOT of fabric bags scattered here and there. Since various studies indicate anywhere from 11 to 25 trips for a fabric bag to break-even energy-wise with a plastic bag, you run the risk of never getting to break-even, and in the meantime have been dragging those bags around hither and yon for no real purpose other than to feel virtuous. There's a good reason that those plastic bags cost so little - they have, per bag, a quite small environmental impact. And dang, they are so reusable! Kitchen trash, dog-doo pickup, cat-box cleanup, shredder paper confinement - heck, I even use them to carry twigs for my wood-burning stove when I go backpacking!

My wife just got a magazine in the mail today that had a fabric bag from Target. The cardboard carton says "The Reusable Target Bag - Carry it with you every time you shop for an easy way to reduce waste in your community." The bag is made from what appears to be either nylon or polyester (coal or petroleum feedstock, hmmm) and has a cute little "Bag Made in China" sticker on it... Now that's GOT to be good for the environment, right?
0
IM BACK
written by 007 sidekick, April 22, 2008
im back!!!! lol jk cya later suckas ;D
0
...
written by kevin, May 18, 2008
thanks so much this article really helped me with my biology project
0
i thinkk/
written by hey heyy heyyyyyyyyyy, May 20, 2008
paper is betta >:( 8) :P :-*
0
Maximize bag usage and viagra online in usa return carbon to
written by TheFakeAlgore, May 28, 2008
If we start using more bags we will be returning more petroleum based carbon compounds to the earth and not to the atmosphere.
http://thefakealgore.blogspot.com/2008/05/pass-plastic-please.html
0
some facts...
written by bc.withacause., September 03, 2008
what you probably didnt know is that it takes 91&#xle;ss energy to recycle plastic then it does paper..you can fit more in paper but it costs buisnesses alot more to buy paper bags..thats why plastic is so much more common..plastics also generate 70 percent LESS air pollutants then paper does..there are pros and cons of both..plastic bags are on the top ten list of most common waster along the coast..plastic also releases contaminating toxins in the soil unlike paper..you have to see both sides of things..many countries have actually Banned plastic bags..the best thing we can do is buy our own reusable cloth bags..=]
0
...
written by isis, May 09, 2009
Does anyone ever think about the jobs created by a paper bag? The farmers, the loggers, the millers, the designers, the marketers the vendors, the shippers, the truck drivers and throw in the fact that if we don't cut down the old dried up trees they will just burn, like California's ...mmm. It's insane not to cut and plant. I think I will proudly support my economy by saying, "I'LL TAKE THE BAG!"
0
dude
written by david, May 17, 2009
I agree, all those paper bags at the beach are always bumming me out. If only folks would use plastic so the turtles would eat them and then die far out at sea away from me. Less energy in producing the bags, and no more ugly bags and dangerous turtles.
0
Use kenaf for non-tree production of pap
written by Peter G, May 19, 2009
In certain countries that have already destroyed their natural virgin forests (e.g., India, Scandinavian continent, Japan, etc.), there is now a move (at least in India) to ban the production of paper by processing eucalyptus or any other "tree" requiring bleaching (hence the production of dioxan-rich effluent)nd utilise kenaf instead. Kenaf is a long-fiber renewable resource that requires little or noprocessing to obtain the dried core used to make a kind of paper pulp. In fact, it is a better choice for paper pulp than any tree simply because of the fact that its fibers are very long. Kenaf bags would be the ultimate solution to the problem in my view.
Peter
0
plastic bags
written by sthomper, June 21, 2009
this does seem odd to me. a kroger has a ridiculous sign up about saving the earth and using some type of cloth/fabric bag. the plastic bags can be reused over and over - and then used for household waste in wastebaskets.
they are quite handy. i would think the cost of plastic bags is included in the cost of purchasing groceries.
when the costs of petroleum are so high that plastic bags are too expensive - well, something else will be in use long before that occurs.

0
...
written by sthomper, July 09, 2009
you could probobly take all you grocery plastic bags to office buildings where you work and repleace all the trash can liners in offices. that would probobly reduce the number of small wastebasket liners offices purchase and reduce office outlays.
0
Pre 69 ecologist
written by Wally, February 09, 2010
Plastic was an attempt to reduce the enviro footprint of the virgin paper bag and use of trees. I can remember back in the day we say "save a tree" when asked for paper or plastic.
The ugly story is that recycled paper is tough on the environment, and has bunches of pernicious issues such as ink effluent and fuel use from just shipping the trash.
Virgin paper is made from pulp farms that consume huge quantities of CO 2
Plastic is made from a miniscule amount of oil. You want to have fun look up how much oil is "spilled" into the Caribean daily by oil bubbling up from the seafloor.
Real fun and look up how much you "save" the environment with a PRIUS Those batteries are not real friendly.
0
...
written by claire, March 27, 2010
Plastic bags take 400 years to degrade! HA HA!
Take a plastic bag, leave it in the sun and cost viagra it will be gone long in 12 months max.
0
You must not have heard of the Pacific Gyre
written by MarkO, March 30, 2010
Hank,
You obviously have not heard of the great Pacific garbage patch. Or what has been found in the Gyres. All the plastic that has ever bean made is likely still around today and will be around more than five hundred years from now. The sun makes the plastic brittle but it stays as plastic. The Oceans are full of broken bits of plastic which have bean killing hundreds of thousands of birds and marine life every year. Go to www.5gyres.org to find out more.
0
The internets one stop prenuptial site
written by mark, May 28, 2012
My town has pledged to not give plastic bags out.
0
...
written by multi vendor shopping cart , September 12, 2012
the thing which now more surprises me is that previously when we talk about only bag there is carbon but now i see the toxic prints of text etc on them make these even more bad.
0
...
written by Spare Parts trays, December 24, 2012
Really, the idea of reuse of any paper, plastic or bags is more helpful for our environment to be made clean and safe. We must bring our unwanted plastic bags back to the store for recycling.

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