Which is better for the planet: plastic or paper bags?
About paper bags
Even though paper is biodegradable and comes from trees, its production and distribution have a greater impact on the environment.
Here are some figures. The production of a paper bag uses 3 times more water, emits 2 times more greenhouse gases and contributes 13 times more to the eutrophication of waters (increase of nitrogen and phosphorus which decreases the oxygenation of aquatic environments).
In addition, a paper bag is bulkier and weighs more than a plastic bag, so the carbon footprint of its transport is greater. The same is true if it ends up in landfill if it is not recycled at the end of its life.
Another important observation is that plastic is more resistant. It can therefore be reused more times than its paper version. The main criticism of plastic is that it is extremely slow to decompose. It takes an average of 450 years for a plastic bag to decompose completely. It is therefore a particularly polluting material. Paper bags, on the other hand, take between 2 weeks and a year to decompose. The length of time varies according to the thickness of the bag and any treatments.
So is plastic better than paper?
No, just look at the astronomical quantities of bags that are thrown away every day.
When shopping or buying food, a person ends up with dozens of single-use bags. They usually only use them once and throw them away. Sometimes these disposable bags are also used as garbage bags, but not all sizes are suitable for this purpose.
By the way, if you want to know more about plastics we invite you to read our article “What is the difference between plastics?”.
So which is the more sustainable alternative?
Whether it is made of paper, plastic or bioplastic, the disposable bag is always a bad option. A waste that could easily be dispensed with if we were to opt for a truly ecological alternative: the reusable fabric bag. Made of cotton, jute or even synthetic fibre, reusablebags are on the rise. They are much more environmentally friendly as they can withstand hundreds of uses.
Remember: a reusable bag takes more energy to make than a disposable plastic bag, so make sure you reuse it as much as possible to make up for the difference! Choose a nice, strong, durable bag and reuse it as many times as you can! The more you reuse it, the more durable it will be!