Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Paper v/s Plastic

The most popular context in terms of which this question arises is currency. Do you prefer to use paper (notes / cash) or plastic (credit which hopefully belongs to you). In that reference, I definitely like plastic way way better. I use my debit card so that money instantly vanishes from my account and I don't have it at all if I've used it. That way there's no comforting feeling that credit cards give you. I hate cash simply because I don't like managing it. That's all.

But really, that's not why I started this post. Here's a little story.

I went to Meijer, our local grocery store, shopping as usual. In the checkout lane, the cashier usually just bags my groceries in plastic bags. I then pick those up, drop them in my cart and I'm off to my car. However, this time around, I saw some paper bags in the bagging area right beside the plastic bags. I told her to bag my groceries in paper bags instead of plastic ones. I reached the car, really proud of how I've contributed to saving the environment by using less plastic i.e. a non-biodegradable material. I was polluting less of the environement.

But then it struck me. Wait a minute - I just used a lot of paper i.e. stuff that is made from trees in paper mills. So if everyone who uses plastic bags, switched to paper in order to not pollute the environment, they would not really have much of an environment left to protect.

So what is good? Use plastic and more plastic or use paper instead? They're both recycled products so it's not like there's a brand new plastic bag produced for every bag that is consumed. That is true for paper too. It's recycled material in both cases but still that doesn't help clarify the choice.

So what is it - paper or plastic?

5 Comments:

Blogger katiescarlet said...

My grocery store puts pretty strong handles on the paper bags, so I get those and use them as trash bags by my computer. So I get double use out of them.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Archana said...

Paper is degradable and plastic isnt....maybe not of much help but I use plastic bags over and over again.
As far as money goes....plastic is so much better than paper or coins. Here in UK coins can blow your mind. Coins start from 1p, 2p, 5p to a pound and two and its terrible! Tired of having the queens head in my purse all time!

6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I would still go with paper bags - they make them alot stronger and I dont expect to see my groceries crashing through. I'm not sure how much you can continue to recycle plastic - bottom line is, it isnt bio-degradable, irrespective of its multiple uses. I've located recycle containers in my neigborhood, and am making regular visits every few weeks. I really believe, every little bit helps.
-Shultz

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm..here's what I found on ilea.org: “Paper or Plastic?” is asked with every grocery store visit, but
which is better? ILEA recommends plastic as the preferred
choice, based on a Franklin Associates life-cycle study.
Each bag was evaluated in two ways: the energy needed to
produce each type of bag and the quantity of waste. Total
energy includes both process energy, the energy consumed
through manufacturing, and feedstock energy, the energy
embodied in a bag’s material. Paper bags use wood as
feedstock; oil and coal supply process energy. Plastic bags
use natural gas and oil as feedstock;
natural gas, oil and coal supply
process energy.
At current recycling rates, two plastic
bags use 13% less total energy than
one paper bag.
Two plastic bags produce a quarter
as much solid waste, a fifteenth as
much waterborne waste and half the
atmospheric waste as one paper
bag. Overall, two plastic bags
produce 72% fewer pollutants than a
single paper bag.
Learn more about this study by
visiting ILEA’s website. Or, just avoid
the question altogether by bringing a
cloth bag.

I dont know how much of this is true. Happy shopping.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Will said...

So totally know where you are coming from on this.

I was all environmentally active in college and we had our first baby in college too. So then there was the problem of responsible diapering.

Impulse and conventional wisdom said that plastic disposables would fill up the landfill. So go with cloth diapers.

Problem with that, though, is the energy one expends to wash and transport the cloth diapers is so much more, and also you are polluting the air when you get them delivered by a service.

Didn't feel like there was any winning that battle. Then I cam across the concept of process of turning garbage into Oil that can be used for energy (www.discover.com/issues/ jul-04/features/anything-into-oil/)---now all that stuff I send to the dump just looks like our future oil reserves to me.

Paper will always contribute to deforestation.

12:31 PM  

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