Editor’s Note: The Environmental Planning and Policy Commission (EPPC) is an ASUCD commission that works to create a more environmentally sustainable campus.
What’s greener: paper or plastic?
Here at EPPC, we encourage you to use a stylish reusable bag to satisfy your shopping bag needs. However, even the greenest of tree people find themselves caught without an eco-tote once in awhile. Those awkward moments often result in the lose-lose situation of paper vs. plastic (as opposed to forfeiting your groceries at the check-out aisle, in which case, you are a better eco-warrior than myself). So, knee-jerk reaction: plastic is bad, and paper is made of trees … so paper is a better option, right? Not exactly. In terms of the entire lifespan of a paper bag, production, transportation, and decomposition, a paper bag will end up emitting 70 percent more greenhouse gasses than its plastic counterpart. Furthermore, trees take a major hit for our luxury of single-use paper bags: 14 million trees are chopped down every year for paper bag production. However, don’t jump on the plastic bandwagon just yet: Polyethylene is made from fossil fuels, and they pretty much refuse to return to their organic state (read: they don’t break down). American shoppers use over 100 billion plastic bags annually, equating to 12 million barrels of oil. The costs (monetary, environmental and moral) associated with the extraction of fossil fuels are constantly increasing, as the proverbial “low-hanging fruit” has long since been harvested. So, dear reader, which is the lesser of the two evils? Bottom line: they both suck. The purest type of recycling is plain-old re-use. However, if you do happen to be caught at the check-out aisle without a bag option, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of each. Happy shopping!
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