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Reusable Trumps Plastic And Paper Bags



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To the Editor:

I think we all understand how harmful plastic bags are to the environment, but I am frequently asked why paper bags are harmful. Most of us believe that paper bags are a better choice at the grocery store because they will break down eventually. I understand that misconception because I used to feel that way, also. Unfortunately, the truth is that paper bags are at least as destructive to the environment as plastic bags and reusable bags are really the only guilt-free choice when shopping.

The production of paper bags emits air pollution; in fact, 70 percent more air pollution and 80 percent more carbon emissions are created during the production of paper bags than is produced during the production of plastic bags. Making and delivering paper bags uses a great deal of fuel, about four times more fuel than plastic bags. And paper bag production uses a shocking amount of water. Each part of pulp used requires 400 parts of water to convert it to paper. That isn't a misprint. I had to double and triple check that number. It really is a 400 to 1 ratio.

But they can be recycled - right? Well, yes, but the recycling process for paper bags is very inefficient. It can use more fuel to recycle a paper bag than would be used to create a new one from scratch. And they can only be recycled once or twice. Unfortunately, when they are not recycled, they can take almost as long as plastic bags to break down in a landfill.

I haven't even mentioned the clear cutting of forests that is done to obtain the huge number of trees used to create the ten billion paper bags that are used in the US each year. Fourteen million trees are cut each year make our paper bags. At every stage in the life cycle of a paper bag, harm is being done to the environment.

I hope I haven't convinced you that plastic bags are a better choice; they are not. Reusable shopping bags are by far the best choice. I have about five reusable bags that I keep in my car and have been using consistently for years. They still look brand-new and I plan to keep using them for the rest of my life. They are washable so I throw them in with the rest of the laundry every now and then. When I first started using them, I would forget to bring them into the store with me. I forced myself to go back out to the car and get them a few times and after that I didn't forget anymore. It helps if the weather is miserable when you have to go back out for your bags. You aren't likely to forget after that.

Vanessa Villamil

11 Antler Pine Road, Sandy Hook         May 2, 2018

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