Paper or Plastic? The Definitive Answer to The Bag Question

paper bags vs plastic bagsPaper versus plastic? Choosing the most environmentally-friendly bag is the eternal dilemma at the end of every shopping trip. Do you know the answer? What is the best bag, paper or plastic?

Both paper bags and plastic bags effect the environment. Paper requires trees and lots of energy to recycle. Plastic, while technically recyclable, is still plastic. So, how do you decide between the two?

Maybe it doesn’t come down to paper or plastic at all.

Plastic bags, as many people know, do not recycle well at all and often end up in a landfill taking up space. Plastic bags are not made of bidegradable materials, so any time they make their way into the ocean or any other natural habitat they can wreak havoc on the ecosystem.

Many marine animals mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them, often resulting in painful deaths. The only actual way for plastic bags to be disposed of is to burn them, which releases harmful chemicals into the air. Also, the manufacturing process that goes into making plastic bags relies heavily on the oil industry, not only harming the environment but costing money in the long run.

On the other hand, paper bags are made of paper which requires harvesting many thousands of trees. Although some bags can be made of recycled paper, even recycled bags have an unnecessarily large carbon footprint because of the energy required during the recycling process.

Choosing the best bag doesn’t have anything to do with paper or plastic. Reusable canvas bags are environmentally friendly, durable, cheap, and often come with decorative designs or positive messages unlike generic plastic or paper bags. Only excessive wear can cause a rip in a well made canvas bag, and cleaning one is just as simple as washing something like a pillowcase. Choosing a canvas bag can be a personal expression of style, but a canvas bag is a practical, reusable, safe, and environmentally friendly bag choice.

If canvas bags can’t be found in your area at grocery stores or other locations, consider reevaluating your shopping trip. Purchase only what you really need and can carry in your hands. You can always come back later with your own reusable bags.

About Barbara Holbrook

Barbara lives in Southern California where she writes about technology, design and smart ways to go green.


  1. There are also lots of tutorials online for sewing your own out of sheets, T shirts, or other fabric.

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