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Paper or Plastic?

Does bagging your groceries send you into a frenzy of guilt over which is the more ecological choice, paper or plastic? Take comfort in the fact that there’s really no right choice. Both gobble natural resources and create waste and pollution.

Paper bag manufacturing is a true resource hog, requiring more than four times the energy to manufacture than a plastic bag. Paper-bag manufacturing both cuts down forests and dumps greenhouse gases into the air. Millions of gallons of toxic pulp plant chemicals stream into our water supply each year. A 1988 study from the Federal Office of the Environment shows that paper bags generate 70 percent more air pollutants and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags.

On the flip side of the bag life cycle, plastic bags take 91 percent less energy to recycle than paper bags, pound for pound. And they’re really no worse for the Earth once they’ve hit the landfill; current research shows that paper bags break down in landfills no more quickly than plastic.

Your best bet in the paper vs. plastic dilemma? Neither! Shop smart by tucking used bags back into your trunk after you unload, and utilize them again next time you shop. Or, make an eco-chic choice with reusable bags from a site like www.reusablebags.com.