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Paper Bag or Plastic Bag?

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

We have to state very straight forward here that the ultimate solution to the environment is not a total plastic bag ban.

This is only a very emotional yet too simple response which fails to strike at the centre of the issues about pollution, climate changes, sustainability and environment.

Instead of a market-based solution, a ban shifts production to paper-based bags and compostable bags, both of which have immense environmental consequences.

The solution is not switching to paper bags or compostable plastic bags. From a Boustead Consulting & Associates report that studies on the life cycle of three types of disposable bags (single-use plastic, paper, and compostable plastic) showed that both compostable plastic and paper bags require more material per bag in the manufacturing process.

This means compostable plastic and paper bags will require larger consumption of raw materials and resources in the production and thus greater energy in bag manufacturing and greater fuel use in the transport of the finished product.

If the extra raw materials and resources of manufacturing compostable and paper bags are much higher than the plastic bag, should we simply go for a ban on the latter item?

Making the same size of packaging, paper bag cost x2.7 times more energy than poly bag. Paper bag production will release x1.6 times more greenhouse gases. The former will also need enromously x17 times more water than the latter.

In other words, the pollution and environmental adversity will start from the very beginning of the production process of paper, paper-based and compostable bags.

Also, paper bags are usually a lot heavier than traditional poly bag and plastic bag. It will cost higher fees, space and in return, consuming more energy and cost during logistics and shipment.

Last but not least, paper has to be made solely from cutting down trees. And we are all aware that the diminishing of the rain forest will severely affect the climate and cause greenhouse effect.

If we aim for a green, healthier, more balanced and more sustainable lifestyle, we really need to consider the whole process and every stage of the supply chain.

An interesting TED-Ed video may get you further information and have a glance from different angles for the issue here: "Which bag should you use? - Luka Seamus Wright and Imogen Ellen Napper"

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