Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Paper or Plastic


There you are in the grocery checkout line and the sacker asks ‘Paper or plastic?”.   This should be easy to answer, you would think.  As the sacker politely waits for an answer you quickly sift through all the information you’ve read about the long-debated issue.  Paper is biodegradable but the harvesting makes a larger negative impact on the environment.  Plus it takes lots and lots of trees, not to mention the habitat destruction. OK, plastic it is.  But wait, your memory suddenly flashes pictures of plastic bags stuck in power lines, trees and fences, littering streets, sidewalks and gutters. And you are now leaning toward paper.  During all this, you hear in the background a faint grumbling from a long line of customers, and maybe even the drumming of fingers from an impatient cashier.  The grocery store begins to fade away as angry faces mixed with images of huge landfill piles and scarred earth swirl around in your head.  Suddenly you hear a loud voice.  “Use cloth bags!”

OK that might be a little dramatic, but I have found myself trying to decide between the two. I do have reusable bags, and if I was a better planner I would have them placed so they are at the ready when I go to the store. I'm not that organized, but maybe you are.



Just a caution on cloth bags, while they are kinder to the environment, according to many studies these bags can harbor dangerous bacteria including E-coli and salmonella if not properly washed regularly. Also they risk cross contamination if meat juices transfer to fruits and vegetables, or to the bag itself.  Your best bet is double wrap your meat and use a separate bag designated for meat only. Buy bags you can wash, and wash your bags at least once a week.

 All photos are from Tree Hugger. And click here if you want to read more about the debate of paper and plastic.

7 comments:

Lela said...

Well, I always carry at least one fabric bag in my handbag - just for random purchases. And several in the vehicle. All of ours are very lightweight nylon stuff...sort of like parachutes. Yes, I wash them often.

But when I have to make a choice, now, it's plastic - because we recycle all of the bags. I feel a little better about saving trees. I wish everyone did.

It's a conundrum.

Cynthia@Ornamental Style said...

I've been using the same two canvas bags for 20 years. I put them by the front door after using them. That way they go back out to the car ready for the next time. I'm not sure that plastic bags are really recyclable. Waste Management (our garbage company) won't take them. I do use them for used cat litter. And ripped ones I do put in the plastic bag recycling bin at the grocery store but I wonder what happens to them. As for trees, they are farmed so are replaced. And paper only degrades in the landfill if it's exposed to light and air. So cloth is really the best choice. Hemp would be an even better choice than cotton. Good topic, Alice.

AntiquityTravelers said...

Great topic! My local stores stopped using any plastic, so your choice is paper or your own bag. I keep several in the trunk of my car and use them for all my shopping (beads included). The only plastic that I do use is to double wrap meat. I didn't even think of food poisoning, but you're probably right on that one!

Ann Schroeder said...

I think some plastic bags (like those from the grocery) really are recyclable. My city requires us to recycle them now rather than put them in the garbage, and they can be co-mingled with our other recycleables. I carry nylon bags the size and shape of plastic grocery bags in my purse that fold up into a little pouch. That way I always have one or two with me, and I can use the pouch for small purchases (like beads).

Shirley Moore said...

Great post Alice! I do have cloth bags, and regularly forget them....
I have wondered about plastic bags, and your post made me finally google it. Here is the info I found, which made me happy.
http://www.plasticbagrecycling.org/01.0/

Jean A. Wells said...

Many times I use the cloth bags, I have several and use them often, but when I have to make the choice between paper and plastic, I always choose plastic because they can be re-used as poop bags. With three Rottweilers to clean up after on walks, they come in very handy - and I would just have to buy the poop bags if I didn't have them.

Islandgirl said...

My husband buys the groceries... I'm not sure our bags have ever been washed... guess I better get them out of his car... although usually in the store the packer uses so many plastic bags to keep things apart I'm not sure if the clothe bags serve any environmental purpose....