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.