Blog Post

Plastic bags versus Paper bags

I found this article:  An interesting read……….







  • They can be recycled and made into new products, which has created new markets for the recycled plastic pellets that are made into products such as children’s outdoor play sets, and patio decking.
  • Although not commonly understood, this is truly the best environmental option, since there is no land filling, no discard—the entire product is used and reused.
  • Reduces plastic litter.
  • Bags are lightweight, convenient, and reused for other purposes within the home such as pet scooping, wastebasket liners, and lunch bags.
  • There is a market for the plastic—stores can sell the recycled plastic bags they collect from customers (15-20 cents per pound)
  • Compostable bag ordinance will seriously jeopardize plastic bag recycling, because compostable bags contaminate recycled bags. If degradable compostable bags are mixed in a batch of recycled plastic, it cannot be used because the compostable ingredients such as cornstarch destroy its strength.
  • Strong enough to hold 25 lbs. But lightweight for consumers to carry.
  • Water resistant.
  • Take up one-seventh of the space in a landfill than paper bags do; release 94% less pollution during manufacturing than paper bags; 70% less air pollution during manufacture than paper bags.
  • Costs 91 percent less to recycle equivalent weights of plastic and paper and the plastic recycling market is growing as consumers become aware of the option.
  • Plastic bags, made from natural gas, are more tree-friendly than paper.
  • It takes about 40 percent less energy to make plastic bags, which generate about 80 percent less waste than paper sacks.
  • Producing plastic bags gives off just 40 of the greenhouse gases as producing paper.
  • It takes 91 percent less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper.  It takes more than four times the energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag. Energy to produce the bags (in British thermal units): Average lightweight plastic bag: approx 600 BTU; Average size (grocery) paper bag: approximately 2500 BTU.
  • Current research demonstrates that paper in today’s landfills does not degrade     or break down at a substantially faster rate than plastic does. In fact, nothing completely degrades in modern landfills due to the lack of water, light, oxygen, and other important elements that are necessary for the degradation process to be completed.
  • Overall rate for recycling plastics for 2006 was 6.9%. Still a significant improvement over 2000 rates.



  • Uses oil to manufacture, so is subject to that political argument
  • Because of human behavior (biggest obstacle to overcome-a change in human behavior), they are often tossed out and are a significant source of the litter stream
  • Plastic bags can take 1,000 years to decompose whereas paper bags take about a month to decompose if proper amounts of water, light, oxygen and other necessary elements are allowed in the process.
  • Most plastic bags are made from polyethylene, which is made from crude oil and natural gas, nonrenewable resources.





  • Readily available.
  • Comparatively cheaper than plastic or cloth reusable bags and compostable plastic bags (but more expensive than regular plastic bags currently being used in retail today).
  • Paper is accepted in most recycling programs while the recycling rate for plastic bags is lower. Research from 2000 shows 20 percent of paper bags was recycled, while one percent of plastic bags were recycled. EPA studies for 2006 show the recycling rate for paper bags is 25.4% and 7.8% for plastic bags.
  • Overall rate for paper/paperboard recycling in 2006 was 51.6%.



  • In the manufacturing process, paper bags generate 70 percent more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags.
  • It takes approximately twice as much energy (91 percent) to recycle a pound of paper than a pound of plastic.
  • A paper bag requires four times more energy to produce than a plastic bag – approx. 2,500 BTUs vs. approx. 600 BTUs.
  • Paper bags are made from trees, which are a renewable resource but a concern for our rapidly depleted forests.
  • 2000 plastic bags weigh 30 pounds, 2000 paper bags weigh 280 pounds. The latter takes up a lot more landfill space
  • Trees take carbon dioxide out of the air, combine it with sunlight and water and create oxygen.  It’s a pretty important trick that turns us all into “tree-huggers”.  There are even efforts underway to plant new trees as a way of absorbing some of the carbon dioxide emissions we’re creating.
  • Are not practical for wet weather.
  • Issue of food safety concerns and cross contamination of products.
  • Take up more space in a landfill than plastic bags.
  • Requires more room in-store for storage in back room and at point of sale.
  • Takes 7 trucks to deliver the same amount of paper bags as one truck of plastic bags—generating more gas usage, more highway traffic, and more air pollution.”



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