Every time you make a trip to the grocery store, you always have the option which to use whether plastic or paper. You may wonder which type of bag is more environmental friendly. In order to assess the environmental impacts brought about by these two opposite material is not really that simple. It would require great consideration of inputs of matter and energy in every level of the life cycle of every product.
Plastics and paper
Plastics are produced by using the waste products of oil refining. The life cycle of the plastic bag is analyzed according to the environmental impact associated when extracting oil, the separation of the different products in the refining process as well as the manufacturing of plastics. The environmental impact will depend upon the efficiency and efficacy of the operations in every stage as well as the effectiveness of the environmental protection measures in place. Paper on the other hand is produced form trees. The environmental impacts include those which are associated with cutting and extracting timber and then processing these to become paper products. Again, you need to consider in the environmental impact if the timber was taken from a sustainably managed forest. You also need to know the environmental management when processing the paper in the production facility. Comparatively, the plastic bags will usually require less energy to produce.
Both the plastic and paper bags need to be transported to different stores which will require energy and also create emissions. When taking into consideration this specific comparison, plastic will be deemed preferable since they are lighter in weight and are much more compact compared to paper bags. It will take about seven trucks when transporting the same number of paper bags as those which can be transported using a single truck that is full of plastic bags.
The downside of plastic bags is that they are non-biodegradable. The paper bag on the other hand will entail additional impact in that they would occupy more space in the landfill compared to the plastic bags which can just be easily compressed. You need to weigh down the environmental impact of both materials before deciding which to use.