Monday, November 28, 2011

Paper or Plastic?

The ACT (Australian Capital Territory) government recently passed a law banning plastic bags b/c they believe they are detrimental to the environment.  It's fantastic that Australia is trying to look out for the environment.  They do this in many other ways as well - like asking everyone to limit their showers to 2 minutes and encouraging people not to use their dryers.

But back to the plastic bags.  So what does this mean to me?  Well, it means no more spontaneous trips to the grocery store without a very large purse.  Gone are the days when I think to myself, "Oh, I need milk...oh, I should pick up some bread too...oh and maybe some ice cream."  Cause now when I do that, it means that I have three choices:  1) buy the legal, biodegradable plastic bag for $0.20 each, 2) buy the reusable plastic bag for $1.00 each, or 3) carry it all in my purse.  My purse is already heavy enough so that option is out.  I already own a million reusable bags, I don't need another one.  So, I guess I'm paying the $0.20 each for a couple of bags.  That adds up with enough spontaneous trips to the grocery store.  Adam and I now leave about 4 of the reusable bags in his car so that we never get stuck without them.

But this got me thinking - are plastic bags really that bad for the environment?

I've read around on the internet and it seems like there's a split decision.

It's generally agreed that while it's easier to recycle paper bags, the energy and cost to the environment is too high.

The energy and cost to make a plastic bag is quite low and they're very inexpensive.  But apparently, even though they're recyclable, people don't generally put them in the recycling bin.  Instead, they reuse them for other purposes and then throw them in the trash bin, thereby clogging up the landfills.

The reusable bags on the other hand, again don't take alot of energy to make and, obviously, they're reusable.  The one thing that I did find interesting is that there's a concern around bacteria growth with the reusable bags.  For instance, lets say you put ground beef in your reusable bag and it hasn't been put into a separate plastic bag because those are illegal, and the blood from the beef gets all over your reusable bag....there's a fantastic opportunity for bacteria growth and germs.

Hmmm...i think I need to go clean out my reusable bags.  What do you think..paper or plastic?