Green living: Save Our Earth By Living Green

Paper Bags vs Plastic Bags

First the bad news for paper bag aficionados – the making of a paper bags uses more energy, releases more greenhouse gases, and uses more water, than the making of plastic bags. It also means millions of greenhouse gas-absorbing trees being cut down every year as part of the process, although they are of course replaced immediately, at least in sustainably-managed forests. This remains the main argument for plastic bag use over paper that they are in some ways more environmentally friendly.

Paper bag

However there are also many well-known disadvantages to plastic bags, problems they causes that have led to charges being imposed by governments around the world, and sometimes outright bans in certain areas, in favour of paper bags. Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to disappear from our environment. Many thousands are given out every day in the UK alone, and most will either end up in landfill, or drifting around the landscape. They prove an eyesore, catching on trees and bushes in the countryside, and to wildlife, especially marine animals, they are a deadly menace. Some can be recycled, yet they need special machinery to do so. It is really a case of what’s better – plastic pollution, or increased energy and water use. Most people now recognise that the best solution is reusable bags for life.

Paper bags can be recycled far more easily, and for every tonne of them that is recycled, over 3 cubic yards of landfill are saved. And even if not recycled, most paper bags will decompose within a few months when exposed to the weather. There are also numerous other uses for paper bags that aren’t achievable with plastics – they can be handy for composting, and can even be put to work cleaning windows!

Further – it should be noted that in the developing world, many entrepreneurs have made a good living from making their own paper bags to distribute around local businesses. Easy to assemble from scraps, they provide employment for many people and ensure a further reduction in harmful plastic bag use in countries where recycling facilities and education around them still leave a lot to be desired.

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