Plastic bags are bad. We all know that. They are made out of oil, are used for average 15 minutes and will stay in the environment for at least 450 years (but in fact forever if people don’t find a solution to biodegrade the plastic). But you will be surprised to learn that a carbon footprint of one thin bag is relatively small.
Many people cheer paper bags in the shops and bakeries as a better and more eco-friendly alternative. True, paper is more recycling-friendly and even compostable but not exactly more eco-friendly.
4 times more water is necessary to produce 1 paper bag, compared to a plastic bag. A lot of energy is needed to process trees into pulp and further to paper. Along the process many chemicals are used polluting the water and soil. And ultimately, paper is made of trees that are cut instead of living and helping to absorb CO2 humans produce. And paper bags are not convenient. According to a study conducted by the UK Environmental Agency in 2016, you need to reuse your paper bag at least 3 times to neutralize the impact of its production. Can you really do it when they tear so quickly?
What is the best choice?
Reusable bag, in our opinion 🙂
They are convenient as plastic bags and durable. Although they do carry a heavier carbon footprint than single-use bags (both paper and plastic). If a reusable bag is made of cotton it means that a lot of water (at least 1500 litres), and pesticides were used causing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution and depletion of soil. According to the same study, you need to reuse your cotton tote at least 131 to neutralize its impact. The synthetic totes have less impact from creation so it is a fairly good option. Basically, you need about half a year to make reusable bags environmentally friendly. And their lifespan is much-much longer. We have some totes that we use regularly for 4-5 years (and counting). Just imagine how much waste could we create with single use bags in this period!
All experts agree, that no matter what bag you have, the main idea is to reuse it as much as possible. We of course encourage everyone to refuse single-use bags and say “parki ar minda” 😉