Plastic Bags, or Paper? Here’s What to Consider When You Hit the Grocery Store

Plastic Bags, or Paper? Here’s What to Consider When You Hit the Grocery Store
Fonte: The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The decision by New York State to ban single-use plastic bags from retail stores makes it a good time to revisit everyone’s favorite environmental quandary: paper or plastic?

Unfortunately, there’s not a simple answer on whether paper or plastic bags are better for the environment. They both have downsides, but there are a few broad lessons to keep in mind when you’re hitting the grocery store.

Plastic bags, which often take centuries to decompose, can create a dreadful waste problem even though they’re far from the largest source of plastic waste in America — about 12 percent of the total.

On the other hand, paper bags typically require more energy and greenhouse gas emissions to produce, which isn’t great from a global warming standpoint.

Reusable bags can be a decent compromise, provided you hold onto them and use them often. Ultimately, though, what you put inside the bag, particularly your food choices, will most likely matter a lot more for the environment than what type of bag you use.

The trouble with plastic bags: litter
American shoppers use more than 100 billion lightweight polyethylene plastic bags each year, and only a small portion are ever recycled. Most recycling centers can’t deal with them — they just clog up the machinery — and so the majority of plastic bags end up in landfills, where they can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.

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