Plastic Bags Instead of Paper?

Since the invention of plastic in 1862, we have found new uses for it, some of them very detrimental to the environment. The plastic that we use nowadays is a petroleum-based material and therefore not biodegradeable. Plastic bags are the second most common form of litter after cigarette butts, and the most pervasive ocean litter (Source: Environmental Leaders). Much of this debris also makes it way to the ocean and chokes many of marine life. Animals like the sea turtle mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and try to eat it. The environmental impact of plastic bag has become such a large problem that Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, wants to ban plastic bags altogether (Source: Environmental Leaders). Companies like Apple have initiated a “no plastic bag” rule in March of 2009 for retail outlets in malls. Customers can receive assistance to a car or the leave their items at the store while they continue shopping. (Source: Apple Insider).

Still, rather than an all-out ban, other organizations and people have developed other ways of fixing the plastic bag program. The Progressive Bag Affiliates started the Full Circle Recycling Initiative. This initiative aims for 40 percent recycled content in all plastic bags by 2015, and at least 25 percent postconsumer recycled plastic (Source: American Chemistry). With more recycled materials, the creation of plastic bags will have less of an environmental impact and lower greenhouse gas emissions by 463 million pounds, conserve enough energy to heat 200,000 homes, and reduce waste by 300 million pounds every year (Source: American Chemistry Press Release). There is even new evidence that shows that production, use and disposal of plastic bags put less burden on natural resources than paper bags. Many cities have also allowed plastic bags in curbside recycling programs to decrease the environmental burden these bags create (Source: Wall Street Journal).

There has even been creation of a biodegradeable plastic made out of chicken feathers. Dr. Justin Barone of the Agricultural Research Service, along with Walter Schmidt, have developed a process that uses only heat, pressure and water to dissolve the sulphur-sulphur bonds in the keratin of the feathers. This process can be used to create any petroleum-based plastics and production is much cheaper and easier than traditional petroleum-based plastic. Feathers are also very plentiful as the poultry production process creates 4 billion pounds of feathers every year. Not only does the feather plastic reduce waste, but the plastic made from feathers are also biodegradeable (Source: Pieces Zine).

We’ve definitely come a long way in terms of the production of plastic bags, but to really save the environment, we need to start using our own reuseable bags. Still the question of “paper or plastic” has become a more complicated question at the grocery store.

Watershed Media
Jasmine Greene


Caroline d.
Caroline d2 years ago

Thank you for sharing this very interesting article.
Be all blessed as all your loved ones.

Virginia C.
Virginia C8 years ago

Right now the best use of any clothing that is in good shape is to send it to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota since the Native Americans there are actually freezing to death every year due to no resources. Most homes have no running water, no electricity, no money for heating or cooking and many are homeless---add this to -50 degree cold and you have the idea.

Not all Indian tribes own casinos, altho I have heard many people say that they're all rich due to the casinos. Please have a heart and sign my petition {it's just to make people aware of what the Lakota People are asking for, things like baby formula, warm clothes, socks, tents, blankets, etc., things we all take for granted every day.

The petition is:

Thank you! Virginia

Gretchen Small
gretchen Small8 years ago

take re-use one step further....instead of throwing out a worn out pair of jeans, cut off the lower legs, open them up, and sew them into a roomy shopping bag. the side seams make a sturdy strap. look around your closet .... most unwanted clothing can be retrofitted with a little sewing.

a good sewing machine is the ultimate Green Machine and basic sewing skills easy to learn.

Diane v.
Diane v8 years ago

Yes, sadly plastic can cause harm to any number of land animals. Plastic bags also hurt marine life when they wind up in the water. They get entangled around fish and other marine life. For example, sea turtles think they are jellyfish. They eat the plastic bag and which creates a bowel obstruction. This in turn causes the turtle to die a slow death. We have to prevent out plastic from winding up in our oceans and waterways.

malka c.
malka c8 years ago

ya ever see a plastic bag around an animal who cannot get lose of it?
i seen cats with them around the neck and belly. not a pretty sight

Diane v.
Diane v8 years ago

Hi virginia,

you had 2 questions i'd like to respond to.

#1) "My one ? is, why aren't the plastic bags being made of solar reactive materials that will break down after being exposed to the sun?"

** This ahs been done in the past. trouble with this is that when this type of plastic winds up in the landfill, most of it never "sees the sun"because it is buried. So therefore it takes very long to decompose.

#2) "Some plastics are now made of a corn starch mix that will completely break down in the environment, why isn't that being explored?"

** It HAS been explored. Check out this site with all kinds of starch based packaging!

Virginia C.
Virginia C8 years ago

I agree with Kim J 100%!!

I have 2 cats and reuse my plastic bags to clean out the catbox, in my mind there is NO alternative to using the plastic bags other than buying SPECIALITY plastic bags made for this purpose.

The price of cat litter has skyrocketed like clay is an endangered species!

Both of my cats are ferals that I trapped and had spayed/neutered, I am recycling cats off the street and recycling the plastic bags.

My one ? is, why aren't the plastic bags being made of solar reactive materials that will break down after being exposed to the sun? Some plastics are now made of a corn starch mix that will completely break down in the environment, why isn't that being explored?

Kim J.
Kimberly J8 years ago

To those people who say that plastic bags should be totally banned, what would you suggest I use for the garbage? What would you suggest I use for cleaning out the cat boxes? Paper bags? Reusable cloth bags? Either of those choices would be a total waste. Plastic bags don't need to be totally banned, but they need to be reused once they are brought home from the grocery store.

Tina Cadena
Tina Cadena8 years ago

Everything here in the Netherlands is recycled. I found people rather take things apart and repair them. Rubber bands have so many uses. Washing clothes on the weekend or late night the enery is cheaper. I take my bags shopping with me , everyone does. This should be a considered practice.

ivonne R.
ivonne R8 years ago

the problem with the recicling as main focus is that you going to have more production of plastic for all kind of porpuse ( and not only of 100% recicled). If you produce it the people is going to use it. I think plastic production should be limited for special purposes. We have a BIG problem of consumerism and that also something that we have to work in it. ...I love the Netherland's strategy, I think is a good way to start.