Plastic Bags

Myths: Fact or Fiction

Degrade in Landfill Myth

The Single Use Myth

Recycling

Paper vs. Plastic Bags


Paper vs. Plastic Studies

Reusables Greener?

Types of Bags

Litter: The Facts
Public Health

Canada Update

Bags Around the World

The Oil Myth

Made in Canada
Ireland's Bag Tax

Paper vs. Plastic Bags

Fiction:  Many believe that paper bags are more environmentally friendly than plastic bags because they are made from a renewable resource, can biodegrade, and are recyclable.

Fact:  Plastic shopping bags outperform paper bags environmentally – on manufacturing, on reuse, and on solid waste volume and generation.

 The Facts

  • The belief that paper is better than plastic is not based on science or fact. It is based on misconceptions about  how plastic bags are made, how landfills work, the incidence of plastic litter, and that non-biodegrading products are bad for the planet.  
  • Numerous life cycle assessments demonstrate that conventional plastic bags are better for the environment than paper bags.
  • On resource use: plastic bags play an important role in the conservation of the natural gas resource. Plastic bags are made from clean energy natural gas in Canada, specifically from are a piece of natural gas – ethane that is often burned off in the natural gas refining process so that the gas will not burn too hot when used to heat our homes.
  • On manufacturing: paper bag manufacture is much more resource-intensive than plastic bag manufacture.  
  • On reuse: it is difficult to reuse paper bags because they tend to tear.

  • On solid waste: paper bags have much greater mass and weigh five to seven times more than plastic bags so they add five to seven times more tonnage to the waste stream for municipalities to manage. This in turn results in a fivefold to sevenfold increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

paper bag vs plastic bag plastic bag
More Detail

1. On Resource Use – Renewable Versus Non-Renewable Resources

forest

Paper Bags and Trees

Plastic Bags and Natural Gas

2. On Manufacturing - Plastic Bag Manufacturing is More Environmentally Friendly

 3. On Reuse – Plastic Outperforms Paper

 4. On Solid Waste – Paper Generates More Waste

 5. On Recycling - Both Bag Types are Highly Recyclable

1  http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/PDF/SCHO0711BUAN-E-E.pdf

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