Are Paper Bags Really Greener Than Plastic Bags?


Chicago is one of the over 160 cities in the United States that have banned and controlled plastic shopping bags. Indeed, the world seems to be collectively rallying against plastics in a bid to make our world greener. Paper has emerged as the possible alternative to plastic. Choosing a more eco-friendly life is great; however, the real question here is whether paper bags are greener than plastic bags. It would be very counterproductive to remove plastics and replace them with alternatives that literally make environmental degradation worse. So, are paper bags the answer to phasing out plastics? The answer might surprise you.

Are paper bags the greener option?

Unfortunately, experts in environmental matters have conducted studies and assessments on this; revealing very unpleasant facts about paper. The process of producing paper is heavy-duty and requires more energy. This will mean dedicating more resources to produce paper compared to plastic. In turn, more energy use means that more greenhouse gases will be emitted with the production of paper. Of course, removing plastics may remove litter and unclog drains. It also reduces the impact on marine life. However, more emissions of greenhouse gases to produce paper does not improve the environment. In any case, this is a catalyst for climate change.

To implement green living effectively, it is therefore better to focus on the reuse of bags; whether they are plastic or not. Below are the top reasons that show that paper is not the gold standard for going green.

– Producing paper is highly energy-intensive

Paper is mainly made from hardwood. This process is highly intense and is composed of the pulping process. A lot of water, chemicals and energy are also used to make paper. In the process, dangerous chemicals are released in the air; and this is degrading to the environment. The production of plastic bags also creates greenhouse gases but not as much as paper production.

– Paper bags are heavier, making them costly to transport

Plastics are lighter than paper. Therefore, transporting paper will need more energy and this means using more trucks and more pollution to the air. Plastics therefore have more merit in this respect.

– Plastics are likely to be reused more than paper

Plastics are strong, light and versatile. Therefore, people reuse them in the home for many things. Paper is somewhat limited in terms of reuse; mainly used carrying stuff. To this end, this could make plastics more efficient where reuse is concerned.

The debate about paper and plastic cannot possibly have one winner. This is because both have merits and demerits. In this regard, the solution could lie in focusing on what will make our world greener; rather than banning things in a blanket manner. Maybe, it is time to focus on reusable bags (both plastic and paper) and create worthy policies that will work for cities and towns.

The bottom line is that paper is not better than plastic; they both have serious effects to the environment. However, the key is to use reusable bags. Some experts state that reusable plastics are better for the environment compared to reusable paper bags. This is because you have to reuse a paper bag over 130 times to lower its potential for global warming. However, when it comes to plastics, reusing 4 to 11 times will reduce the environmental impact.